Mike the Headless Chicken (April 1945 – March 1947), also known as Miracle Mike, was a Wyandotte chicken that lived for 18 months after his head had been mostly cut off. Thought by many to be a hoax, the bird was taken by his owner to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to establish its authenticity.
On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, United States, had his mother-in-law around for supper and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen chose a five-and-a-half-month-old cockerel named Mike. The axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact.
Despite Olsen's botched handiwork, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily; he even attempted to preen and crow, although he could do neither. After the bird did not die, a surprised Mr. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn.
When used to his 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.
Once his fame had been established, Mike began a career of touring sideshows in the company of such other creatures as a two-headed calf. He was also photographed for dozens of magazines and papers, featuring in Time and Life magazines.
Mike was on display to the public for an admission cost of 25 cents. At the height of his popularity, the chicken earned US$4,500 per month ($48,000 in 2010 dollars) and was valued at $10,000. Olsen's success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheadings, but no other chicken lived for more than a day or two.
In March 1947, at a motel in Phoenix on a stopover while traveling back home from tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night. As the Olsens had inadvertently left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day before, they were unable to save Mike. Lloyd Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike still touring the country as late as 1949. Other sources say that the chicken's severed trachea could not take in enough air properly to be able to breathe; and therefore choked to death in the motel.