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Mike the Headless Chicken
Lloyd swung the axe down on Mike and chopped the chicken’s head off. But much to his surprise, the chicken did not die. Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. He even attempted to preen and crow, though he could do neither. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water with an eyedropper.
Once he got used to new and unusual center of mass, Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling. His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat, leaving him unable to crow at dawn. Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck.
Mike began touring with sideshows and was photographed for both Time and Life magazines. He was on display to the public for the admission price of twenty-five cents. At the height of his popularity, he was earning $4,500 a month. His success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheadings, but no other chicken ever lived more than a day or two.
In March 1947, at a motel in Phoenix while traveling home from tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night. The Olsens had inadvertently left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day before and were unable to save him.
After Mike’s death, it was determined that the axe had missed the carotid artery and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was severed, most of his brain stem and one ear were left on his body. Since basic functions (breathing, heart-rate, etc.) as well as most of a chicken’s reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy.