Mike, The Headless Chicken
Class, settle down now please. I want to take the last 15 minutes of class to talk about some interesting history - science history. Jim, could you remove your sunglasses? And Ben, please put away your ipod. Thank you.
I want to tell you a story about a very strange chicken named Mike. You see, Mike was a chicken that lived for 18 months without a head.
(Students gasp and whisper amongst themselves).
That's right, his owner chopped off his head...and the chicken survived. Here's how it all began:
On September 10, 1945, Lloyd Olsen picked out a younger but plump rooster out of his chicken coup in Fruita, Colorado. His wife, Clara was going to prepare a wonderful feast - as Lloyd's mother in law was going to be visiting. Lloyed brought his ax down on the chicken's neck, and the poor thing struggled and did all the normal things a chicken would do after having it's head chopped off.
The term "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" is a pretty well known saying. And I'm sure little 5 1/2 month old Mike was doing his share of shaking and staggering. The next few moments would prove to be the strangest most bizzare thing to ever happen in the world of chicken slaughtering.
The bird would not die.
With his head laying on the ground, the rest of Mike walked around quite normally. He flapped his little wings, and probably walked right into the side of the barn. But the darn chicken had survived. I can only imagine the shock Lloyd and Clara experienced. Lloyd decided to leave the chicken alone. Maybe it was the inner scientist in him that wondered, "How long can this chicken live without it's head?"
The next morning, Mike was quite alive. This was a special chicken indeed, and Lloyd devised a method of feeding this headless chicken. He used an eye dropper to feed it water and ground up grain. Lloyd dropped the 'food' right down Mike's esophogus. Sounds strange, but the method worked. Mike continued to thrive.
Mike was able to balance himself on perches without falling. If you can imagine, he was even able to crow - creating a gurgling sound made in his throat. Mike even tried to preen his feathers with his nonexistent head. That's sort of like combing your hair even though you're bald. Pretty useless. Mike acted just as any other chicken would, except for the fact that the bird was headless.
Lloyd brought Mike to a promoter, and soon "Miracle Mike" toured the West Coast. Mike was even featured in Life magazine. At his pinnacle of fame, the chicken was bringing in $4500 per month. Back in the 40s, this was really a ton of money. Mike was estimated to be worth $10,000 and was actually insured for that amount. The sideshows consisted of bringing Mike out to greet the paying customers, and they got to see his head pickled in a jar. Actually, a cat ate Mike's original head, so Lloyd sacrificed another not-so-lucky chicken in order to show the amazed audience.
With fame comes...copycats. In this case, copychickens. Farmers attempted to cut the heads of their chickens in an effort to recreate Mike's Magic. One rooster, Lucky, actually survived for 11 days. Lucky wasn't too lucky, for it died when it was running and slammed into a stove pipe.
Mike did have one major complication. He often choked on his own mucus. Aren't you all glad you have my class just before lunch??? Lloyd and Clara had to use a syringe to suck it out. Otherwise, Mike would die. One evening, the Olsens were at a motel in Phoenix. Mike began to choke on his mucus. They searched in vain for the syringe until they realized that they had left it at the sideshow from the previous day. Sadly, Mike died that night.
So how did Mike survive his own beheading?
Scientists examined Mike and determined that Lloyd had in fact chopped Mike's head off 18 months prior. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. Lloyd's ax actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also unharmed.
Shouldn't Mike have been put out of his misery though? Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering. When Lloyd chopped the chicken's head off, Mike was only 2 1/2 lbs. When he died, Miracle Mike was a robust 8 lbs. Had the Olsens been able to syphon Mike's mucus that fateful night in March of 1947, who knows how long Mike would've survived without his head. His 18 months is still a world record.
But don't worry, Mike's legacy lives on. In his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, they hold a "Mike the Headless Chicken Festival" every spring. This year, it's going to be held on May 19th and 20th. The festival includes: a huge car show, music & entertainment, a chicken dance contest, chicken recipe contest, food and craft vendors, and a costume contest - so Kim C., you should enter. The festival also features the infamous 5K "Run Like a Headless Chicken" race.
When you have time, you can go to Mike's offical website HERE.
Don't forget about your quiz tomorrow on mammals, and...David! Mr. Amulet, please stop making fart noises with your armpit. And your research papers are due Friday.
And no, Siren, Mike the Headless Chicken will not be on your quiz tomrrow.
Mike, the Headless Chicken statue in Fruita, Colorado