Mike The Headless Chicken

June 2010


On September 10, 1945, in Fruita, Colorado, farmer Lloyd Olsen grabbed an ax and a young Wyandotte rooster with the intent to get supper on the table. Olsen planned to leave much of the neck intact to please the taste buds of his visiting mother-in-law. After a quick swing of the ax, the beheaded young rooster staggered somewhat but did not falter. Olsen’s blade missed the jugular vein and blood flow in the rooster’s neck quickly clotted. After a few moments, the rooster began acting normal again. Amazed at the rooster’s will to live, farmer Olsen changed his supper plans and let the headless rooster return to the coop.


Finding the rooster very much alive the next morning, Olsen was determined to help him survive. He was able to feed the rooster water and grain using an eyedropper. No longer just a barnyard resident, the rooster soon took on the name Mike.


Mike apparently didn’t notice the absence of his head. He continued trying to peck and preen just as any chicken would. After one week of watching Mike adapt to his new condition, Olsen decided to take his miracle rooster to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to document the remarkable survival. The scientists examining Mike determined that most of his brain stem and one ear were still intact.


After the word got out, and skeptics began expressing their doubts as to the truth of the tale, Olsen hired a manager and commenced on a cross-country tour to show off his Miracle Mike. The unsuspecting fowl was soon seen from New York and Atlantic City to Los Angeles and San Diego. Sideshow patrons paid 25 cents each to see the wonder bird. Mike was featured in many newspapers and magazines, including Time and Life. As Mike’s fame rose, his income swelled to $4500 a month. Not surprisingly, Mike now holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.


In March 1947, after living 18 months without a head, Mike’s journey ended at an Arizona motel. Mike began choking in the middle of the night and Olsen could not find his feeding dropper in time to clear Mike’s airway.


Mike’s life has inspired songs, statues, t-shirts, a fan club, his own website, his own Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Each year in May, Mike’s life is celebrated with a festival held in his hometown of Fruita. Festival events include a 5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race and Pin the Head on the Chicken. Mike is celebrated for his inspiration to others – reminding us all of Harold Russell’s famous words, “It is not what you have lost but what you have left that counts.”