I was chatting with a couple of my friends when a strange question popped into my head–“How long does a chicken with its head cut off run around?” My one friend said they could go on for a good half hour or so (her grandparents had chickens), and then my other friend mentioned a headless chicken that lived for a couple of years. I headed to Google to find conclusive answers to this pressing question only to discover the tale of Mike the Headless Chicken.
Back in 1945, Lloyd Olsen just wanted some chicken for dinner, so he grabbed a 6-month old rooster by the neck and took him to the chopping block. The chicken not only ran around like a chicken with his head cut-off, he just kept on running. Lloyd did what any man in such a predicament would do–he ate out that evening. However, his headless chicken just kept running amuck. That’s when Lloyd decided to name the little critter “Mike” and turn him into a freak show that we still marvel at more than 50 years later.
Apparently, when Lloyd took Mike’s head to the chopping block, he miss severing Mike’s brain stem, which controls vital chicken function. Added in with the bonus of having a little bit of throat intact, Mike lived a hefty 18 months…without a head. While he still attempted to peck at the ground and preen his feathers, Mike was unable to eat so he was fed with a eyedropper by Lloyd and his family.
The Olsens claim that Mike was not suffering and he was very happy. Therefore, they paraded their poultry around the United States for all to see (raking in quite a bit of cash at the same time). Unfortunately, on one of these trips Mike passed away (due to breathing problems it seems). He lived for almost two years as Mike the Headless Chicken.
But Mike’s tale doesn’t end there. Despite being deceased Mike’s memory is kept alive with his own website (miketheheadlesschicken.org) and his hometown of Fruita, CO celebrates his life with a “Peace, Love & Mike Festival” each spring.
In celebration of “Turkey Day”, I share the story of Mike for several reasons, but mostly because I needed to blog about something and, hey, a headless chicken is pretty darn funny! But also for you to give thanks that you are not headless, and most likely did not have to chop the head off your Thanksgiving dinner. Then again, you never know, the next Toby the Headless Turkey is only a chopping block away.