It really happened. On 10 September 1945, Mike (who wasn’t named “Mike” at the time) was going to be dinner. Such is occasionally the fate of roosters like him. Lloyd Olsen was sent that fateful morning to find a chicken for dinner. He wanted to please his mother-in-law, and thus aimed his killing stroke to leave her the most neck as possible⁠—yes, there are people who like to eat chicken necks. He took careful aim, and decapitated the five-and-a-half-month-old fowl. Like all birds who lose their head, Mike went out of his mind. That’s expected.

The unexpected was that he stuck it out. He tried to peck for food, he tried to preen, but it didn’t work so well without the beak. Lloyd left him be for a while, and the next morning went out to find Mike (still not named “Mike” yet) with his stub stuck under a wing, and still not dead, Lloyd figured he couldn’t kill a guy so dead set on living.

And live, he did.

Mike was packed up and moved to the University of Utah, who documented in no uncertain terms that this chicken was indeed both headless and animate. He was fed grain and water through a dropper, and in the eighteen months that he lived without a noggin, he gained near six pounds, so his inability to feed himself didn’t slow him. He was featured in Time and Life magazines, and was described as being “as happy as any other chicken”.

Mike passed on in a sadly mundane fashion, choking to death on a bit of food while the Olsens tried in vain to dislodge it. Dead, but not forgotten, every May the city of Fruita, Colorado holds a festival in his honor, and they say, right on the website, “Attending this fun, family event is a NO BRAINER!”