Mike the Headless Chicken

This is a fascinating story about a chicken that survived without a head! It provides some reading comprehension practice and takes about 15-20 minutes.

Mike the Headless Chicken wasn’t always headless. However, he went on to live longer without a head than with one. On an average September day in 1945 Mike’s owner Lloyd Olsen went outside to “prepare” the 5 month old chicken for the evening meal. Mr. Olsen took out his axe and aimed high up on the neck so as to save as much of the tasty neck as possible. After he brought the axe down on the chicken, he was surprised to find that it did not die. In fact, it began walking around the yard headless! Not only did he walk, he pecked at the ground as if looking for food.

The next morning Mike’s owner found the chicken sleeping with his head under his wing. Mr. Olsen began feeding the chicken with an eyedropper and took him to be examined at the University of Salt Lake City. It was determined that the axe had left enough of Mike’s brain stem to keep him alive. In the months after the decapitation incident he continued to thrive, growing from 2.5 to 8 pounds.

Mike’s owner then took him on a nationwide tour showing off the wonder chicken with the amazing will to survive. The Olsens and Mike the Headless Chicken enjoyed attention from thousands, national magazine recognition, and even a Guinness World Record. Mr. Olsen continued feeding Mike with an eyedropper for 18 months. Then one night, while on tour in Arizona, something got caught in Mike’s esophagus and he choked to death. Mike is still remembered at a festival every third week in May in his hometown of Fruita, Colorado.

  1. How did Mike manage to survive without a head?
  2. How old was Mike when he died?
  3. What does it mean that Mike “continued to thrive” after the incident?
  4. Aside from being hungry, why do you suppose Mike continued pecking at the ground after losing his head?
  5. What does the word esophagus mean?
  6. What question do you have after reading this story?