Mental Floss

Mike the headless chicken

Ransom Riggs

As long as we're on the subject of surviving horrendous injuries (see our earlier post on Phineas Gage, and last week's list of strange things removed from the human body), we feel compelled to share with you the story of Mike, the headless chicken. Mike was a Wyandotte rooster, one of many owned by the Olsen family of Fruita, Colorado in the 1940s. One day Mike was headed for the dinner table, with a quick trip to the chopping block and the cooking pot first. After losing his head, Mike ran around, well, like a chicken with its head cut off, but unlike most victims of the axe, he never stopped running. He ran back to his fellow chickens in the barnyard, and calmly resumed the business of being a chicken, albeit without a head.

Turns out the axe-wielding farmer had left just enough brain stem for Mike to continue most of his normal body functions, save crowing and preening. (Oh, and he had to be fed with an eyedropper.) Needless to say, the farmers didn't have the heart to finish the job (to the ire of some animal rights groups), and instead began touring the country with their rare bird, who by 1946 was earning the family around $50,000 a week in today's money. Mike was displayed standing by a pickled chicken head, though sadly not his own, as the family cat had eaten it. Mike finally met his own demise one night in 1947, when he choked on his own mucous while he and the family were in between gigs and staying at a motel. Inevitable? Perhaps. Strange? Most definitely.