You’ve probably heard the expression “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” It’s a fairly popular idiom in American culture and it finds it origin from the fact that chickens are known to run around in a frenzied manner if let go once their heads are removed. Today’s story is about Mike. Mike was a chicken. Maybe the most famous chicken that has ever lived.
On September 10th, 1945 in Fruita, Colorado, Clara Olsen was getting prepared to have a nice dinner with friends and family. She sent her husband, Lloyd Olsen out to kill one of their chickens for that evenings meal. Lloyd was a little hesitant about the company coming and he knew Clara’s mother appreciated a good chicken neck. Knowing that she savored that particular piece of the chicken he was preoccupied in trying to get a generous portion of neck when he lopped poor Mike’s head off. (It’s not known exactly when the chicken came to be known as Mike). As chickens tend to do, Mike simply walked away from the incident. Lloyd, with the piece he really wanted, left Mike, assuming to find him dead the next day.
When he came back the next morning he was surprised to find that Mike was pecking at the ground (without his head) and fluffing his feathers just like all the other chickens. He would even attempt to crow, which ended up being more of a gurgling sound from inside his throat. Day after day Lloyd would check on Mike to find that he was still alive, walking around, like nothing had happened. After a while he began to feed Mike milk and water through an eye dropper as well as small pieces of corn to ensure he was getting sustenance- being that he no longer had a head to eat grain.
So why the heck was Mike still alive? When Lloyd cut of his head he missed the jugular and left most of the brain stem intact. This allowed Mike to continue living even though he didn’t have what one would assume is essential for life- a head.
Mike became infamous and went on tours with sideshows where spectators would pay twenty five cents to see him. The amazing headless chicken show was bringing in $4,500 per month ($47,500 today).
In March 1947, while in a motel in Phoenix, Mike began choking in the middle of the night. Lloyd Olsen had left the feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow so there was no way for him to assist poor Mike. Tragically, Mike, like so many rock stars that would follow, died in a dirty motel at the peak of his fame.
But his memory lives on. In Fruita, Colorado, there is “Mike the Headless Chicken Day,” which is a festival held every May with a 5k run, pin the head on the chicken, and any other headless chicken themed activity you can think of. He even has his own website miketheheadlesschicken.org.
Mike, and his headless little body will always be fondly remembered by the folks in Fruita, Colorado. Here’s to you Mike!