Update! See below.
Sometimes you come across a story that really, really seems too weird to be true. Sure we’ve all heard about chickens who run around the barnyard after getting their heads chopped off. But for over a year?
So in an effort to know, for sure, that this story really is True, I went looking for evidence that Mike was real. Here’s what I found — with the story from the 23 April 2000 issue of This is True:
The town of Fruita, Colo., wanted something a little less boring than the usual “pioneers” to focus on for Colorado Heritage Week, so the city revived the story of Mike the Headless Chicken. In the 1940s, farmer Lloyd Olsen went to get a chicken for dinner. Wanting to leave as much of the neck as possible, he lopped off the chicken’s head as tightly as he could. The chicken did not die, and continued to “peck” for food as it walked around the yard. Amazed, Olsen started feeding the chicken with an eyedropper. The headless bird, dubbed Mike, appeared in Life magazine and traveled to exhibitions around the country. Fruita’s Mike the Headless Chicken Festival is a smashing success, and a new Mike sculpture (“I made him proud-looking and cocky,” the artist says) was recently unveiled downtown. Mike lived for 18 months after his head was chopped off. (AP) …Big deal: politicians can live like that for decades.
Addendum: In 2014, Scientific American ran an article that explained how Mike lived: his brain stem was left intact. It also revealed an interesting tidbit: the head shown at Mike’s feet in the photo wasn’t actually his: the Olsen’s cat made off with that one! I’m sure Lloyd had plenty of others available to act as a prop.
No, Mike isn’t alive again, but one of his cousins is. Collbran, Colorado, is just 50 miles from Fruita. Perhaps there’s something in the water in Western Colorado? From True’s 24 April 2005 issue:
Uegene Safken says he let his chickens out of their coop outside of Collbran, Colo., and went into his house for a cup of coffee. When he came back, he found one of his birds drowned in a tub of water in the yard. He fished the young chicken out of the water and thought, “what the heck, I’ll give it a shot,” and gave it mouth-to-beak resuscitation. His girlfriend told him to give it up. “Leave the chicken alone; it’s dead,” Denise Safford says she told him. But, he said, “I wouldn’t let that damn thing die.” It worked: the chicken, he says, came back to life and is now fine. It wasn’t so bad, he says. “I’ve kissed worse.” (Grand Junction Sentinel) …Let’s just hope he doesn’t mean Denise.
More on Mike
I was trolling around Youtube and found this clip of a PBS documentary that interviews some old-timers who remember Mike, as well as family members, and has some old family photographs and such. I’m not sure I knew that Mike even toured Europe!
So there you go: This is True!