“Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” We’ve all heard the phrase countless times. It is such a widely used idiom that the McGraw-Hill Dictionary includes a definition for it: ‘to run around frantically and aimlessly; to be in a state of chaos.’
Many people are aware that a chicken who swiftly loses its head can continue moving for several minutes — hence the expression. What most don’t know about is the story of a miraculous chicken named Miracle Mike, who lived for 18 months without his noggin.
On September 10, 1945 a farmer named Lloyd Olsen planned on enjoying a normal chicken dinner with his wife and mother-in-law. He grabbed the most plump chicken in the coop, picked up his axe and positioned the chicken for slaughter.
The farmer chopped just high enough to preserve the neck bone since it was his mother-in-law’s favorite piece. The chicken staggered around for a while like, well, a chicken with its head cut off.
But then he kept going. And going. And going.
Olsen could not bring himself to finish the job since the chicken was so determined to live. Instead, he fed it grains and water with an eyedropper for 18 months until its death.
Scientists were able to study the one-of-a-kind poultry in order to figure out an explanation to the seemingly miraculous situation. Due to a chicken’s skeletal anatomy, Miracle Mike’s forebrain was severed but his brain stem remained intact. The brain stem controls basic motor functions and breathing, so its preservation allowed Mike to continue living a relatively normal life for the next year and a half.