COLORADO (Web Desk) – Seventy years ago, a farmer beheaded a chicken in Colorado, and it refused to die. Mike, as the bird became known, survived for 18 months and became famous. But how did he live without a head for so long, BBC finds the answer.

Miracle Mike the Headless Chicken was owned by  a farmer Lloyd Olsen and his wife Clara in 1945. One day, Olsen was chopping off heads of its chickens when one of the 40 or 50 animals that went under Olsen’s hatchet that day didn’t behave like the rest.

Postcard with poem about Mike

The chicken kicked and ran, and didn’t stop. Here is why?

What happens when a chicken’s head is chopped off?

  • Beheading disconnects the brain from the rest of the body, but for a short period the spinal cord circuits still have residual oxygen.
  • Without input from the brain these circuits start spontaneously. “The neurons become active, the legs start moving,” says Dr Tom Smulders of Newcastle University.
  • Usually the chicken is lying down when this happens, but in rare cases, neurons will fire a motor programme of running.
  • “The chicken will indeed run for a little while,” says Smulders. “But not for 18 months, more like 15 minutes or so.”