Colorado · Newspaper clippings

“Miracle Mike,” the chicken who lived 18 months without a head

September 10, 1945
Fruita, Colorado
A chicken intended to be eaten survives being beheaded, lives for another 18 months

The chicken, later called “Miracle Mike” or “Mike the Headless Chicken,” was 5-and-a-half months old when he was selected to be butchered. The swing of the axe meant to end his life removed most of his head, but missed his jugular vein and left a portion of his brain stem as well as his an ear. Additionally, a clot formed which prevented him from bleeding out. According to Lloyd Olsen’s (Mike’s owner) great-grandson, Troy Waters, Mike ran — much as a proverbial chicken with its head cut off tends to do — but did not stop. The Olsens put Mike in a box and left him on the porch expecting him to die from his wound, but were surprised to find Mike still alive in the morning. Olsen took the chicken into town and “started betting people beer or something that he had a live headless chicken,” according to Waters.

Mike would demonstrate several routine activities such as walking (albeit clumsily), balancing on a perch, attempting to preen himself, and “crowing,” which was more of a gurgle than anything. Olsen began feeding Mike using an eye dropper with watered-down milk and grains of corn which he dropped into Mike’s esophagus.

Word of a living headless chicken spread quickly and Olsen was contacted by a sideshow to have Mike examined at the University of Utah. After a thorough examination, the Olsens began traveling with Mike earning $4,500 a month (roughly $49,000 in 2018), earned from public display admissions running at $0.25 a person; Mike drew around 18,000 people a month.

On the evening of March 17, 1947, Mike began choking on a kernel of corn he had somehow found. The Olsens scrambled to find Mike’s feeding or cleaning tubes, only to realize they had left it at a previous venue. Mike suffocated before they were able to figure out a way to save him.

Olsen, perhaps out of pride, told people he had sold Mike rather than admit the chicken had choked to death. Waters stated his great-grandfather confessed to Mike’s demise a few years before Olsen passed away.

THE FOLLOWING IMAGES MAY BE UNSUITABLE FOR SOME. DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

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