Mike The Headless Chicken



For the uninitiated, here's the link to the remarkable story.

I wonder if it's physiologically possible with a human. A man has an unfortunate DIY accident with a circular saw, and continues life sans head, scratching his balls in front of the telly, spending endless hours at the pub and waxing the car.


Mike the headless chicken lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee


Aug 7, 2002
Reaction score
More Mike info here:

Link is dead. See subsequent post for the MIA webpage's content.
Last edited by a moderator:


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 7, 2001
Reaction score
That link no longer works. But perhaps surprisingly, the link in the OP does!

Anyhoo, the BBC has decided to revive Mike's story as an anniversary piece (Long article):

The chicken that lived for 18 months without a head

Seventy years ago, a farmer beheaded a chicken in Colorado, and it refused to die. Mike, as the bird became known, survived for 18 months and became famous. But how did he live without a head for so long, asks Chris Stokel-Walker.

On 10 September 1945 Lloyd Olsen and his wife Clara were killing chickens, on their farm in Fruita, Colorado. Olsen would decapitate the birds, his wife would clean them up. But one of the 40 or 50 animals that went under Olsen's hatchet that day didn't behave like the rest.
"They got down to the end and had one who was still alive, up and walking around," says the couple's great-grandson, Troy Waters, himself a farmer in Fruita. The chicken kicked and ran, and didn't stop.

It was placed in an old apple box on the farm's screened porch for the night, and when Lloyd Olsen woke the following morning, he stepped outside to see what had happened. "The damn thing was still alive," says Waters.
"It's part of our weird family history," says Christa Waters, Troy's wife.

Waters heard the story as a boy, when his bedridden great-grandfather came to live with Troy's family. The two had adjacent bedrooms, and the old man, often sleepless, would talk for hours.
"He took the chicken carcasses to town to sell them at the meat market," Waters says.
"He took this rooster with him - and back then he was still using the horse and wagon quite a bit. He threw it in the wagon, took the chicken in with him and started betting people beer or something that he had a live headless chicken."

Word spread around Fruita about the miraculous headless bird. The local paper dispatched a reporter to interview Olsen, and two weeks later a sideshow promoter called Hope Wade travelled nearly 300 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah. He had a simple proposition: take the chicken on to the sideshow circuit - they could make some money.
"Back then in the 1940s, they had a small farm and were struggling," Waters says. "Lloyd said, 'What the hell - we might as well.'"
First they visited Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, where the chicken was put through a battery of tests. Rumour has it that university scientists surgically removed the heads of many other chickens to see whether any would live.

It was here that Life Magazine came to marvel over the story of Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken - as he had by now been branded by Hope Wade. Then Lloyd, Clara and Mike set off on a tour of the US.

They went to California and Arizona, and Hope Wade took Mike on a tour of the south-eastern United States when the Olsens had to return to their farm to collect the harvest.
The bird's travels were carefully documented by Clara in a scrapbook that is preserved in the Waters's gun safe today.

People around the country wrote letters - 40 or 50 in all - and not all positive. One compared the Olsens to Nazis, another from Alaska asked them to swap Mike's drumstick in exchange for a wooden leg. Some were addressed only to "The owners of the headless chicken in Colorado", yet still found their way to the family farm.

After the initial tour, the Olsens took Mike the Headless Chicken to Phoenix, Arizona, where disaster struck in the spring of 1947.
"That's where it died - in Phoenix," Waters says.



Ironic it died in Phoenix - perhaps they should have burnt the corpse, to see if Mike would arise again from the flames... ;)



I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Jul 19, 2004
Reaction score
Out of Bounds
More Mike info here:
Link is dead. See subsequent post for the MIA webpage's content.
The MIA webpage linked above can be retrieved from the Wayback Machine:


The MIA webpage was not copyrighted, so here's the full text and substitute copies of the photos.

Mike the Headless Chicken

He really was a chicken running around with his head cut off.
The e-mail message seemed innocent enough. A reader simply asked "Ever heard of the story posted here at this link?" and offered a hyperlink to another web page. I clicked and came across a story that I was sure had to be pure fiction. The only problem is that the story appears to be totally true.

This is the story about Mike the chicken. Mike, of course, was not your ordinary chicken. No, not ordinary at all. You see, Mike was a headless chicken. If you want to be really specific, Mike was actually a headless Wyandotte rooster.

I should point out that Mike wasn't always a headless bird. In fact, he was born 100% normal, complete with a head (most normal chickens have one of these) in Fruita, Colorado.

On September 10, 1945, Mike's short five-and-a-half month life was about to take a turn for the worse. On this day, Mike received a death sentence. His owners, Lloyd and Clara Olsen, decided that it was time to slaughter a group of birds, some to sell and to prepare others for themselves. Out to the hen house they went…

Watch out Mike!

As you can probably imagine, Mr. Olsen was the one whacking the heads off while Clara plucked and cleaned the birds.

Bash! Down came the ax and off went Mike's head.

Mike's head was surely dead. Mike's body was not.

Now I know what you are thinking - it is well known that chickens will run around frantically when their heads are chopped off. That's probably where that old expression comes from. And, everyone knows that a headless chicken just can't survive more than a few moments. ...


Apparently, Mike forgot to read the rulebook for playing the game of Life. His head may have been lying on the floor, but he had no problem standing up and strutting around as if nothing had actually happened. The next day, Mike was still flopping around, so Lloyd decided to feed him to see how long he could keep the bird alive. Day after day he continued to gain weight.

Mike could easily balance himself on the highest perches without falling. His crowing consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat. Mike even attempted to preen his feathers with his nonexistent head (apparently he never noticed). It seems that Mike could do just about anything that any other chicken could do, if you exclude all of the functions of his head.

As I'm sure you can imagine, headless chickens are not an everyday event. In the tradition of that famous huckster Barnum, there was money to be made in this oddity. A promoter by the name of Hope Wade came along and convinced Lloyd that Mike would be a big draw in the sideshow circuit. Miracle Mike, as he soon came to be known, toured up and down the West Coast of the United States. Just six weeks after his beheading, Mike was featured in a Life magazine article and his fame grew. For just 25 cents, anyone could pay to get a look at Mike. At the height of his popularity, Mike was raking in a cool $4,500 per month, which was no small potatoes in those days. They probably would have thrown in his head as a bonus - it was stored in a canning jar and toured along with Mike. (Actually, a cat ate Mike’s head. Some other poor chicken’s head was pickled in the jar.)

And, if there was money to be made, there were also copycats. Other people in Mike's hometown began to chop the heads off of their own chickens in an attempt to get in on the scheme. One copycat headless rooster was named Lucky and he managed to live for eleven days before bashing himself into a stovepipe and dying (Lucky wasn't that lucky after all). Several other headless chickens lived for a couple of days.

So how was Mike able to survive? Scientists examined him and determined that Mr. Olsen had not done a very good job at chopping Mike's head off. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. The slice actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Apparently, most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also largely untouched. Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering.

Through his open esophagus, Mike was fed a mixture of ground up grain and water with your typical eyedropper. Little bits of gravel were dropped down his throat to help his gizzard grind up the food. ...


One serious problem that Mike commonly experienced was that he would start to choke on his own mucus. The Olsens came up with the simple solution of using a syringe to suck the mucus out. But, one day tragedy struck. Mike was traveling back home to Fruita and was roosting with the Olsens in their Phoenix motel room. They heard Mike choking in the middle of the night and quickly realized that they had left the syringe at the sideshow the day before. Miracle Mike was no more.

The exact date of Mike’s belated departure from this world was never recorded. Years later, it was estimated, based on Lloyd’s information, that Miracle Mike died in March of 1947. Eighteen months living without a head could be considered a world’s record. Yet, Lloyd didn’t want to admit that he had accidentally killed the bird, so he claimed that he had sold the bird off. This little white lie is the reason that many of the stories printed about Mike claimed that he was still touring the country as late as 1949.

But wait, the story is not over! Mike actually has his own holiday! On May 17, 1999, Mike's hometown of Fruita held the first "Mike the Headless Chicken Day" in honor of one of its most famous citizens. Some of the events included the 5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race, egg tosses, Pin the Head on the Chicken, the Chicken Cluck-Off, and the classic Chicken Dance. The food offerings included - you guessed it - chicken, chicken salad, and the like. Let's not forget the great game of Chicken Bingo in which the numbers were chosen by where chicken droppings fell on a numbered grid.

If you are interested, Mike the Headless Chicken Day is an annual event. As peculiar as it is to describe, it actually sounds like a great time. And it’s all done in celebration of the life of one lucky bird named Miracle Mike.

Useless? Useful? I'll leave that for you to decide.


doesn't negotiate with terriers
Sep 15, 2013
Reaction score
At least he never had a headache.