Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mike, The Headless Rooster

In 1945, in the little town of Fruita, Colorado, Mike the rooster had his head chopped off. Mike didn’t seem to notice.

The young rooster was meant to be his owners’ dinner on September 10, 1945. His owner, Lloyd Wilson, chopped Mike’s head off and the rooster began staggering around, but refused to lay down and die. Instead, he continued to walk around and behave like a normal chicken, pecking for food and trying to preen his feathers, which was not easy to do since he had no mouth. When he tried to crow, he made a gurgling sound.

When Olsen found the rooster sleeping the next morning, he decided to try to keep the five and a half-month old chicken alive for as long as possible. He used an eyedropper to feed grain and water to the rooster. A week later, Olsen took Mike to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He, and researchers at the university, all wanted to know how the rooster had managed to survive being beheaded. They discovered that Mike’s brain stem was largely intact and that the axe blade had missed the jugular vein. A clot had prevented the chicken from bleeding to death.

Mike not only survived the experience, but thrived, going from 2-1/2 pounds to a hefty 8 pounds. He became a celebrity and set out on a national tour, visiting New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles and San Diego. People gladly paid 25 cents each to see the headless chicken. He was featured in Time and Life magazines, and earned a Guinness World Record that is not likely to be broken. He even became the subject of a PBS documentary. He had his own manager and was ensured for $10,000.

In March 1947, 18 months after he was supposed to have become dinner, Mike began choking on a kernel of corn in an Arizona motel room. Olsen could not find his eyedropper to clear Mike’s throat and the chicken choked to death in the middle of the night. He continued to tour, however, until 1949.

The town of Fruita has not forgotten Mike, the Headless Chicken. The town hosts a festival in his honor and he has his own website.

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