chicken with no head

Mike The Headless Chicken

This is an article about the story of Mike the Headless Chicken (also known as Miracle Mike). It is an unbelievable, but true story about a chicken that had actually lived for nearly two years without its head. Of course, being very difficult to believe, it was once thought to be nothing but a funny hoax.

However, Mike’s owner took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to prove it was a fact. It was proven that the chicken actually survived even after its head was cut off. Despite having a very unusual type of abnormality, Mike was resilient and lived for 18 months (after being decapitated).

The Amazing Story

Miracle Mike (April 1945 – March 1947) was a male Wyandotte chicken. Back in September of 1945, a farmer named Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, had plans to eat supper with his mother-in-law. He went out to the yard and had picked a five-and-a-half-month-old cockerel that was named Mike. Then it was time to grab the axe and say goodbye to Mike. However, the axe had just missed the chicken’s jugular vein. The failed attempt had left an ear and the majority of the brain stem intact.

Miraculously, Mike was not only alive, but was even able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. Although he had limited success, he even attempted to preen, peck for food and crow. Realizing what he actually had, Mr. Lloyd decided to hold on to Mike and permanently take care of him.

How Did Mike Eat?

You may be wondering how Miracle Mike was actually fed without his head. This resilient chicken was fed a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper. Mike was also given small grains of corn.

Mike’s Popularity And Success In Sideshows

It didn’t take very long for the story of Mike’s miraculous survival to get out. Neighbors started to find out about him, and were excited to get a glimpse. Then, a interested promoter had also heard about him. He eventually convinced Mike’s owner into bringing him to the sideshow business to make some money. This gave Mr. Olsen the idea to make some cash to pay the farm off and purchase new equipment. Of course, Mike’s fame encouraged him to take very good care of him.

After his fame had been well-established, Mike began his short, but very successful career of touring sideshows around the country. He was in the company of other freak creatures with rare abnormalities (such as a two-headed calf). He was found in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Mike was even photographed and featured in Time and Life magazines. If the public wanted to see him in person, they would have to pay a fee of twenty five cents for admission. Amazingly, Mike was able to pull in US$4,500 per month ($47,500 today) for his owner and was valued at $10,000.

His Final Day

In March of 1947, it was finally time to say goodbye to Mike the Headless Chicken. While staying at a motel in Phoenix on a stopover while traveling back from tour, Mike suddenly started to choke in the middle of the night. Due to the fact that the Olsen family had accidentally left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the previous day, unfortunately, they could not save his life.

Mr. Olsen claimed that he sold the bird off. This resulted in stories of Mike still out touring in sideshows as late as 1949. However, other sources say Mike’s severed trachea could not properly take in enough air to be able to breathe, which resulted in him choking to death in the motel.

Actual Image Of Mike

Why A Chicken Can Live Without Its Head

rooster headOf course, anyone would wonder how a creature could live even with most of its head severed. It was later determined that Mr. Olsen’s axe had missed Mike’s jugular vein. A clot prevented him from bleeding to death. How did he function? Mike still had the majority of his brain stem intact. The brainstem controls vital functions such as breathing and heart rate (even most of a chicken’s reflex actions). His intact brainstem is what allowed him to remain healthy until his dying day.

According to Dr. Wayne J. Kuenzel (a poultry physiologist and neurobiologist at the University of Arkansas), the chicken’s skeletal anatomy plays a significant part in its ability to survive without its head. Since the skull of a chicken contains two large openings for the eyes, it allows the brain to be shoved upwards into the skull at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. The brain being at that particular angle explains why a crucial part of the brain may still remain after decapitation.

Kuenzel says that the key to successfully slicing off a chicken’s head is slicing below their eyes. Slicing above the eyes will only remove the chicken’s forebrain. Kuenzel also says that if the bird still has a bottom beak, then it is likely that the cerebellum and brain stem are intact. However, Kuenzel also says that a genuine enduring headless chicken like Mike is a very rare phenomenon.

Although A Chicken Can Squirm After Being Decapitated, It Doesn’t Mean It’s Still Alive

If you have ever witnessed a chicken get its head cut off, you have probably seen it dancing around and squawking for a short period after decapitation. Although it may appear to still be alive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Dr. Kuenzel says that just like in humans, when you separate the brain from the neck, you will get a great amount of movement in the limbs. Consequently, it appears that the chicken is in a panicked state when in reality, it could just be the firing of nerves.

An Example Of Another Headless Chicken

An Insect That Can Live An Entire Week Without Its Head

large cockroachThey are one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. Amazingly, a cockroach can live for an entire week without its head. They survive because they do not depend on the mouth or head to breathe. Cockroaches have an open circulatory system and breathe through tiny holes that are found in each of their body segments. The reason they die after a week is because without their head, they have no mouth. Therefore, since they can’t drink any water, they eventually die of thirst.

Images Of Mike

A Short Documentary On Mike’s Success


If this is the first time you have ever heard the story of the headless chicken, you may still be in disbelief. Despite the story being proven to be genuine, even decades later, there are probably still many people who think it was just a made up hoax. After all, who could believe that a creature could survive without their head? Mike the Headless Chicken showed that it surely is possible.

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About Joseph Caltabiano

Joseph Caltabiano is a blogger, oddities lover and a former surgical technologist. He left the field of surgical technology to pursue a career in blogging and internet marketing. As clearly shown in his posts, Joseph is very passionate about unusual topics. His two most favorite topics are medical and weird science.