Mike the Headless Chicken also recognized as Miracle Mike was a Wyandotte’s chicken that lived for 18 months after his head had been cut off during the period of April 1945 till March 1947. Although the story was believed by various to be a hoax, the bird’s owner took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to establish the facts of the story. On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, United States, was eating supper with his mother-in-law and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen chose a five-and-a-half-month-old cockerel named Mike.

The axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. In spite of Olsen’s failed attempt to behead Mike, he was still able to balance on a perch and walk awkwardly; and even attempted to preen and crow, though he could do neither. When the bird did not die, Mr. Olsen, who was shocked, decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn. His crowing, however, comprised of a gurgling sound made in his throat. Mike also spent his time attempting to preen and peck for food with his neck.


Once Mike’s popularity had been established, he started a career of touring sideshows in the company of such other creatures as a two-headed calf. He was also snapped for dozens of magazines and papers, including in Time and Life magazines. Mike was published to the public for an admission cost of twenty-five cents. At the increase of his height and fame, the chicken earned US$4,500 per month (Almost $47,500 nowadays) and was valued at a big cost of $10,000. In March 1947, at a motel in Phoenix on a stopover, while traveling back from tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night.

The Olsens had unconsciously left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day before, and so unable to save Mike. Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike still touring the country as late as 1949. Then other sources say that the chicken’s severed trachea couldn’t properly take in adequate air to be able to breathe, and it therefore choked to death in the motel.

It was determined that the axe had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was detached, most of his brain stem and one ear were left on his body. Since basic functions of breathing, heart rate, etc., as well as most of a chicken’s reflex actions, are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy. This is a good example of central motor-generators allowing rudimentary homeostatic functions to be carried out in the absence of the cerebral cortex.

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