What Are You, Chicken?
*Clucking sounds ensue*
Welcome to Fun Fact Friyay! This newsletter is all about keeping things brief and sending you off into the world smarter, wiser, and happier.
Today’s fact: A chicken named Mike lived for 18 months after his head was cut off.
You might be familiar with the phrase “running around like a headless chicken.” It typically refers to someone who’s panicking and so out of sorts that they don’t know what’s going on.
If you’re a Wyandotte chicken named Mike, the phrase takes on a more literal meaning.
Let’s jump back to September 10, 1945. A farmer in Fruita, Colorado, named Lloyd Olsen, was taking an axe to chickens in his yard, with his wife Clara helping out.
Except Olsen didn’t fully behead one chicken. After he swung his axe, most of the brain stem and one ear remained intact on the bird.
The bird could still preen, peck for food, and cluck (though it was more of a gurgle). His breathing, heart rate, and reflex actions were all largely unaffected since those actions are controlled by the brain stem, which is in the back of a chicken’s head. He also experienced a blood clot that prevented him from bleeding out.
Olsen left the chicken in a box overnight and was shocked that the bird was still alive the next morning. So, he decided to care for his headless friend.
He fed the chicken milk and water through an eyedropper and gave him worms and small grains of corn. Olsen was impressed by the bird’s can-do spirit and decided to tour him around the country after a sideshow promoter named Hope Wade traveled more than 300 miles from Salt Lake City to visit this chicken.
Wade also gave the chicken a name: Miracle Mike.
At his peak, Mike was making $4,500 per month and was worth $10,000. That’s about $70,000 and $156,000, respectively, in today’s money. Not too shabby!
Alas, Mike’s run ended in a Phoenix motel on March 17, 1947. He began choking on a kernel of corn stuck in his throat. Sadly, the Olsens left their cleaning and feeding tubes at the sideshow and were unable to save Mike. He died a full 18 months after losing his head.
Olsen claimed he had sold Mike to someone in the sideshow circuit, so the legend of Mike lived on for years.
In fact, the legend is STILL living on today. You can honor Mike’s memory by attending the annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Festival” in Fruita.
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