Mike (who was actually a Wynadotte rooster), lost his head on September 10, 1945, to an axe wielded by a farmer named Lloyd Olsen. Chickens have been known to flutter around for seconds or minutes after being decapitated, but Mike, after a few shaky steps, fluffed up his feathers and went about his business in the barnyard with the other, heads-on-chickens. He went through the motions of pecking for food, preening his feathers and tucking what used to be his head under his wing when he slept.
He tried to crow, but only a gurgle came out.
When he was still alive the following morning, Lloyd decided he might be more valuable as an oddity than a meal and began feeding him by dropping grain, water and milk into his open esophagus with an eyedropper.
When Mike was still alive a week later, Lloyd took him to Salt Lake City so that incredulous University of Utah scientists could study him. They determined that Lloyd had not done a very good job at chopping Mike's head off. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. The slice actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Apparently, most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also largely untouched. It seems that Mike could do just about anything that any other chicken could do, if you exclude all of the functions of his head.
Lloyd began a public relations campaign and hired a manager. They took "Miracle Mike" as he came to be called and Mike's head, which Lloyd had preserved in a canning jar in alcohol, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlantic City and New York City. They set up photo shoots with magazines and newspapers and kibitzed with scientists across the country. Lloyd was also, of course, blasted by animal rights activists.
At four-and-a-half years of age (some people disagree on the exact age, but it was without question a very long time for a headless chicken), Mike choked to death on a kernel of corn.
The town of Fruita, Colorado apparently celebrates "Mike the Headless Chicken Day," in mid-May.
While a story about a headless chicken might leave you not knowing whether to laugh or cry, it is true. Photographs of Mike can be seen at http://www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/