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Mike the Headless Chicken Day

Updated on February 9, 2011

Can a chicken live without its head?

Interestingly enough, yes.

On September 10, 1945, a young rooster in Fruita, Colorado, survived the traumatic experience of having its head chopped off by its owner.

Reportedly, the axe had left the jugular vein completely untouched and enough of the brain stem remained attached to the neck for the young cockerel to live happily for an additional two years.

Mike the headless chicken became a famed star as he was touring the US and making his appearance on the pages of Life and Time magazines. You could come face to face with “Mike the Headless Wonder Chicken” as his owner, Lloyd Olsen, charged 25 cents for a chance to meet him in sideshows across the country. Olsen kept the head.

Lloyd Olsen holding Mike the headless chicken and his fake head.
Lloyd Olsen holding Mike the headless chicken and his fake head.

As a matter of fact, the original head was lost to Olsen's cat, instead, he was carrying a dried substitute to complete the chicken. At the peak of his career, Mike proved to be a real gold mine as he was making $4,500 a month, and was valued at $10,000. The cruel reality is that Mike's success brought about a series copycat chicken beheadings, whereby people were trying to produce their own money-makers. Needless to say, none of the unlucky candidates made it to be the next national celebrity.

If you think about this for a second, it might not be perfectly clear how the headless chicken managed to stay alive the ability to feed properly. The truth is Olsen made use of an eyedropper to fed and watered Mike. You might be also wondering how one's loss of a head affects their future well-being in life.

Mike the Headless Chicken lived for 2 years after he lost his head.
Mike the Headless Chicken lived for 2 years after he lost his head.

In Mike's case, the consequence wasn't what one would expect. In the 2 years after he discarded his head, he put on almost 6 pounds and spent most of his time blissfully preening and pecking for food with his neck. As one person close to Mike remarked: “He was a big fat chicken who didn’t know he didn’t have a head.”

The bitter end for the headless chicken came unexpectedly on one night when they were staying in a motel room in Phoenix, Arizona. Having left the eyedropper at the scene of the previous day’s show, Lloyd Olsen was unable to clear Mike's airways when he started to choke.

Mike is not forgotten. He remains in the memory of those he left behind, as in Fruita, Colorado, the “Mike the Headless Chicken” Day is celebrated every May since the end of the '90s.

Mike the Headless Chicken

Was it cruel to make an attraction of the chicken?

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    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 7 years ago from USA

      That was an interesting bit of information. I had never heard of the headless chicken. That is so bazzar!

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

      They say suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism. I guess suicide by way of beheading oneself must be a form of faux self-criticism then.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Reserving judgment in the actuality of this subject brought to my attention in the past,I'd say without reservation that the chicken,not having a good head on his shoulders,proved that one may as do well without one,lol.;)