The Amazing Life of Miracle Mike

Lloyd Olson carefully feeding his headless chicken

The tale of Mike the Headless Chicken of Fruita, Colorado has fascinated me since I was a child.

One day, way back in 1945, Lloyd Olson’s wife, Clara, told him they needed a fresh chicken for a dinner with the in-law, her mother.  Lloyd went out back and picked out a five and a half-month-old Wyandotte.  They had named him Mike.  Lloyd picked up his axe.

     Now Mr. Lloyd Olson was usually an excellent axe-man, but this time something went dreadfully wrong.  The fallen chicken got up and ran around.  The result was so astonishing that Lloyd Olson decided to give Mike a reprieve.   The now-headless chicken seemed to be alive.  Mike was able to balance on a perch and kind of walk and run a bit.  He tried to crow—but he was not much good at that.  Gurgle would be a better word.  He tried to peck and preen with minor results.

     When Olson put Mike in an apple box the first night, he was astonished to see him moving around the next morning.

     Mr. Olson knew he would have to get food into the chicken somehow, so he tried feeding it with an eyedropper, directly into the gullet, as no head remained.  He fed Mike diligently, milk and finely ground corn at times.  He knew if he could keep Mike alive, there could be a bonus.  Sure enough, people paid to see the miracle chicken, first in bottles of beer, then in money.

     The money was too good to pass up, so Mr. Olson and his wife decided to take Mike on a sideshow circuit for as long as he would last.   This was at the suggestion of a professional sideshow promoter.  He told the Olsons they could make some money.  Their farm was struggling.   Mike appeared in both Time and Life Magazines, to add to his mystique.  Soon the chicken was making $4,500 a month for the Olsons.

     It couldn’t last forever.  One night in 1947, the Olsons awoke to hear Mike choking.  They could not save him because they had left their chicken-first-aid-kit at their previous stop.  It was an oversight they would deeply regret.

     To dispel the rumors of hoax, Lloyd Olson had taken Mike to the University of Utah to vouch for his credentials early on.  It was verified that Mike was able to remain active because his brain stem and jugular vein were still attached—the axe had missed them.  The brainstem is what controls basic body processes and the intact jugular vein is what kept him from bleeding to death.

     The tale of Mike the Headless Chicken of Fruita, Colorado has fascinated me since I was a child.  I first learned about it in Our Weekly Reader, I think, over sixty years ago.

     Mike was hatched from an egg on April 20, 1945, on the Olson farm.  He became headless on September of 1945, and his body quit for good in March of 1947.  He had existed that way for 18 months with the help of Lloyd’s special feeding methods.  His whole lifespan was 23 months.  Clara documented his life and their travels in a scrapbook.  In 1945, an Arba L. Green wrote a poem about Miracle Mike.

     The town of Fruita, Colorado is proud of its citizen Mike.  It has annual festivals in his honor—there is also a handsome statue of the bird.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, stories of the bizarre and unexplained. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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