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The amazing story of a chicken who refused to die

US: For the good folks of Fruita, Colorado, tomorrow (Fri 14th May) is a very important day in their social calender.

It marks the beginning of two days of festivities in honour of the town's most famous son - Mike the headless chicken.

Mike wasn't always headless.

He was born, like all other chickens, complete with a head.

But on September 10, 1945, his owners, Lloyd and Clara Olsen, decided it was time to kill Mike and sell him.

It is well known that chickens run around frantically for a few seconds when their heads are chopped off.

But it is also well known that headless chickens can't survive more than a few moments.

Or can they?

After Mike's decapitation, his body refused to give up the ghost.

The next day he was still strutting his stuff. So Lloyd kept feeding him.

Mike gained weight and was described as "a fine specimen of a chicken, except for not having a head". He could balance on high perches without falling and even attempted to preen his feathers with his non-existent head.

His crowing, however, was reduced to a gurgling sound deep in his throat.

And an eyedropper was used to drip-feed grain and water down his gullet.

Promoter Hope Wade saw Mike's money-making potential and convinced Lloyd to exhibit him on the sideshow circuit.

Miracle Mike toured the west coast of the US and was featured in Life magazine under the headline: "Beheaded chicken lives normally after freak decapitation by axe."

At the height of his popularity, Mike was earning pounds 2,500 a month, but he was about to meet a sad end.

Working the sideshows was no problem for Mike, but on occasion he would begin to choke on his mucus and Lloyd would suck it out with a syringe.

Then tragedy struck. While roosting with Lloyd and Clara in a motel, Mike began to choke in the middle of the night.

Lloyd did his best to help his plucky pal, but he had left his syringe at the sideshow the previous day.

And so, after cheating death for 18 months, Miracle Mike was no more.

But his life is celebrated every year, when the people of Fruita dress up as chickens and do the chicken dance while singing Mike's official song: "Mike the headless chicken, a legend of the west. No farmer's axe could stop the heart, beating in his breast."
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 13, 2004
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