They called the chicken Miracle Mike, although he probably didn't even have a name before farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, cut off his head in 1945 with the intention of serving him for dinner. Not an uncommon fate for chickens raised as a food source. But this rooster refused to die, and he lived for another 18 months -- without a head. Mike survived his turn on the chopping block because although the axe took off most of the colorful Wyandotte rooster's skull, it left him one ear, his jugular vein, and his brain stem.
The chicken didn't bleed to death and had enough brain left to control his motor functions, so he continued strutting around and even pecking for corn. Lloyd Olsen and his wife, Clara, having witnessed this miracle, turned Mike into a nationwide sideshow attraction until the bird's eventual death. Their story was featured in an October 1945 issue of LIFE magazine, complete with some truly bizarre photographs of the famous fowl.
More about the life and death of Miracle Mike:
- After losing his head, Mike was given a diet of liquid food, placed directly into his esophagus, but he needed to have mucus regularly cleared from his throat with a syringe. On his last day, Mike began to choke. The Olsens couldn't find the syringe and, sadly, Mike suffocated to death.
- The Olsens did make a little money off of Mike's fame, their great-grandson says. Lloyd Olsen bought a hay baler and two tractors, replacing his horse and mule. They also splurged on a 1946 Chevrolet pickup truck.
- The town of Fruita, Colo., holds a Headless Chicken festival every May. A metal statue there honors Mike's miraculous life.