In September of 1945, Lloyd Olsen and his wife, Clara, a farming couple in Fruita, Colorado, were expecting company for dinner. Clara’s mother was coming for a visit, and chicken was on the menu. Knowing that his mother-in-law enjoyed chicken necks, Lloyd tried to leave as much neck as possible on the rooster he was beheading for the evening’s feast. His desire to please his wife’s mother led to one of the strangest events in chicken history.
Chickens have been known to run around for a few minutes after losing their heads because their brain stems, responsible for vital bodily functions, are located in their necks. They typically die pretty quickly, though, once they bleed out. But the chicken who was meant for the dinner plate that night did not die. He ran for a few minutes, then started acting like nothing had happened to him. He even tried to peck the ground for food.
Lloyd decided to leave the bird alone for the night, hoping it would die by morning. But when he checked on the bird the next day, he found him still alive, sleeping in the barn. His jugular vein had not been severed, and the base of his brain was left intact, allowing him to live. Lloyd decided spare the rooster’s life and named him Mike.
Mike could no longer eat normally due to the loss of his head, so Lloyd fed the bird by putting food directly into his throat using an eyedropper. He decided to show off his strange bird to friends, and before long word spread about headless Mike. First, a local newspaper interviewed the Olsens and photographed Mike. Then, a sideshow promoter offered Mike a spot in his show. Lloyd traveled with the bird, now known as Miracle Mike.
Mike traveled all over the United States for 18 months. He attracted so much attention that he earned the Olsens around $4500 per month. He was even featured in major national magazines, including Life and Time.
Sadly, Mike’s career and life finally came to an end on March 17, 1947 while he was on tour in Phoenix, Arizona. Lloyd was feeding the rooster a kernel of corn as a treat one night at their hotel when Mike choked on it. Lloyd could not get the corn out of his throat, so Mike died.
Miracle Mike lived on in the hearts of the residents of Fruita, Colorado, though. They built a statue to commemorate him in the town center. There is also a Headless Chicken festival held in Fruita every May, which honors the memory of the headless chicken who lived for a year and a half.