I was perusing an article at LiveScience, on the top ten most popular myths of science, when I happened on a snippet about headless chickens:
Chickens can live without a head. True, and not just for a few minutes. A chicken can stagger around without its noggin because the brain stem, often left partially intact after a beheading, controls most of its reflexes. One robust fellow lived a full eighteen months. Likely he was a real birdbrain, however.
Now this piqued my interest, since I couldn't believe that a headless chicken could survive without any food or water for a full 18 months. But on further investigation, it all became clear. From Useless Information:
So how was Mike able to survive? Scientists examined him and determined that Mr. Olsen had not done a very good job at chopping Mike's head off. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. The slice actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Apparently, most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also largely untouched. Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering.
Through his open esophagus, Mike was fed a mixture of ground up grain and water with your typical eyedropper. Little bits of gravel were dropped down his throat to help his gizzard grind up the food.
And finally, just in case we still don't believe it, here's Straight Dope on the phenomenon:
This sort of thing evidently occurs fairly often. When Dear Abby ran a column on it a while back she got clippings and eyewitness reports about headless-but-living chickens from all over the country. The phenomenon has even found its way into literature, namely Garrison Keillor's Leaving Home. If you don't think it happens in humans too, you've never had a close look at the contestants on "Let's Make a Deal."Go Top