September 10, 1945: Mike the Headless Chicken

History relates many a strange event, but few stranger than Mike the Headless Chicken.  Intending a five month old Rooster for dinner, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita , Colorado cut off the bird’s head on September 10, 1945.  Much to his surprise, the chicken did not die, but continued to walk around.  (Scientists examining Mike would later find that the jugular vein had been missed and  that a quick forming blood clot prevented him from bleeding to death.  Mike’s brain stem was intact, which controlled most of his reflexive behavior.)

Olsen, stunned by all this, did not finish his job of putting Mike to death, but instead fed and watered the bird by squeezing water mixed with powdered chick feed down the esophagus of Mike.  It was inevitable that Mike would end up on the freak show circuit, earning the equivalent of approximately $47, 500  in today’s currency.  Thought by many to be a hoax, at least until scientists of the University of Utah verified that he was a living headless chicken, he was photographed thousands of times including by such major publications of the day as Time and Life.

After 18 months of a headless existence, during which he gained 2.5 pounds, Mike departed this Vale of Tears while on tour, choking to death at a motel in Phoenix during the night. 

The city of Fruita, Colorado holds a Mike the Headless Chicken festival on the third weekend each May.

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  1. When my late mother was a little girl, one of the things that fascinated the kids in Marquette, Michigan was the sight of a chicken running around after it’s head was cut off. A Jewish rabbi would do the honors and let the bird do a dash to the death run around the yard. Today, some would say this would traumatize the little ones, but hey, they didn’t have the internet back then, so they had to do something for entertainment!

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