Category: Weird Articles
Published on Monday, 12 August 2013 00:00
We all know of at least one person who goes around living, breathing and talking without a brain. That person you find so much delight in bitching about to your friends is not the only one who can function without a brain, a chicken named Mike lived 18 months without his entire head.
Mike was a Wyandotte chicken that had his head chopped off in preparation of a chicken dinner for the family of a Colorado farmer on an eventful April day in 1945. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing) for Mike, Farmer Lloyd Olsen’s axe narrowly missed the jugular vein, and left an ear and the majority of the bird’s brain stem unharmed.
You might be aware that a clean chop to a chicken’s head is one of the fastest, most painless ways to slaughter a chicken. Normally after a chicken’s head is chopped off, the chicken will flap around for a bit before coming to a final rest. The few minutes of the chicken headless-ly flopping around is not due to it still being alive, it is because its muscles are still moving as a result of an electrochemical reaction in its nerves. This applies for other animals and even humans as well. The chemicals that cause the muscles to move are stored in the nerve endings, and when an animal dies, they are gradually released. It all boils down to a chemical reaction. Regardless of which, it is a dirty job, but someone has to do it if we all want to continue chomping on KFC chicken like the fat bastards we are.
However, the release of chemicals is not the case for Mike the chicken. Mike was actually still alive after his head had been decapitated. Mike stood up, walked it off and continued doing whatever it is a chicken does. He “pecked” for food oblivious to the fact that he was missing his beak, or his entire head for that matter, and preened his feather like the rest of his chicken buddies.
Farmer Olsen waited for Mike to finally drop dead, but decided that it was not going to be anytime soon and told his wife to fix something else for dinner instead. A duck, perhaps.
In the morning, Farmer Olsen awoke to find Mike sleeping with his “head” tucked under his wing, and decided that if Mike had so much willpower to live, he would look for a way to give the bird sustenance. Using an eyedropper, he fed grain and water directly into the bird’s gullet. FOR GOD’S SAKE MAN, PUT THE BIRD OUT OF ITS MISERY.
After being decapitated, Mike was able to walk, but somewhat unsteadily. He gradually adjusted to his new look and centre of gravity, and was able to strut around like any other rooster. Obviously, he could no longer crow, but he attempted to which came out sounding like a gurgling noise.
Farmer Olsen believed that Mike was special, and after a week of Mike’s extreme makeover, Farmer Olsen took him down to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where scientists studied him (Mike, not Farmer Olsen). The scientists determined that Mike’s amazing ability to stay alive without a head was due to the axe missing his jugular vein and a clot that prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although Mike’s head was kept in a glass jar, most of his brain stem and one ear was left on him, and since most of a chicken’s reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was declared healthy.
Dubbed “The Headless Wonder Chicken” for 18 months, Mike grew from a mere 1.1kg to a hefty 3.6kg. During an interview, Farmer Olsen described Mike as a “robust chicken - a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head.”
Mike had a manager appointed to him, and together with the Olsens family, set out on a national tour. Curious patrons from New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, and San Diego queued up and paid 25 cents to catch a glimpse of the living, headless chicken. Mike’s net worth was at US$10,000 and he was insured for the same price. That was a lot of money then, considering that this happened in 1945. He earned a place in Life and Time Magazines, and not to mention the Guinness World Record.
Mike’s unfortunate passing on to the nether world was neither due to old age nor excessive loss of blood. While on tour, the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert, where Mike started to choke in the middle of the night. The Olsens were unable to locate Mike’s eyedropper which was used to clear his open oesophagus in time, and Miracle Mike drifted off to chicken heaven.
While Mike may be gone, he is not forgotten. He has an entire website dedicated to him
, and every year in his hometown of Fruita, the town hosts an annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” on the third weekend in May. The legacy of the headless chicken will continue to go down in history; mums and dads will tuck their children in at night and tell them of the admirable willpower and sheer determination of this strong and hardy cock.