Mike The Headless Chicken

By Anupum Pant

Mike, a Wyandotte rooster, born in the month of April (year 1945), was an average male chicken living an average chicken life at some barnyard in Fruita, Colorado. On September 10th 1945 this changed. The rooster was no longer a normal male chicken of some random barnyard. It was making news.

The second world war had ended and families no longer were required to cut down their consumption of meat. So, a farmer’s wife, Clara Olsen decided to treat her family with a nice meal after the numerous sacrifices made in the second world war. She asked her husband, Lloyd A. Olsen to chase down mike and kill Mike for the night’s meal.

Lloyd did exactly that. He took aim and cut off Mike’s head. Normally, like all the chickens make erratic movements after getting cut, Mike with no head on his body started running, spewing blood around too.

Unlike all the chickens who spurt out blood and no longer have enough of it to remain alive, Mike’s bleeding stopped after a while and he stood up. Now Mike was a headless chicken moving around the barnyard. With no eyes, or even a head for that matter, mike started walking around and running into objects.

Mike the headless chicken feedingSoon, Mike adapted to this situation and started living a normal life. Except, he was a chicken without a head. Mike went on to live for 18 months, sustaining on food and liquids that were dropped using a dropper into the hole in his neck. Mike sure had the will to live.

Mike was a celebrity now. Life magazine published a piece on him. People from all over the country came around, just to have a look at a live headless animal walking around like nothing had happened.

Mike, Mike, where is your head.
Even without it, you are not dead!

Was the song little girls then started singing while playing around at school

Confused, the farmer took Mike to the University of Utah to get him checked by researchers. It was found that the brain stem at the top of his neck didn’t get cut. He still had the part which controlled his motor functions, and that was, more or less, enough for a chicken to lead a headless life. Basically, just enough to move around and continue normal body functions – like to digest food and respond to stimuli.

Even today, Mike has a festival named after him –  Mike The Headless Chicken Festival – which is Fruita’s highlight during the year.

via [RoadsideAmerica]



A Chicken’s Remarkable Image Stabilization Ability

By Anupum Pant


I saw this Smarter everyday video, made by Destin, a very long time back and I remember very well that I had stored it away in my notes somewhere to share it with you guys in the future, but it was nowhere to be found. As time passed, I totally forgot about it. Just yesterday, while writing about how chicken heads saved Switzerland from rabid foxes, there was a sudden flash in my mind and I recalled having seen Destin’s video (I don’t know how that happened. Brains are amazing). I’ve attached it below for you to see.

In the video, Destin demonstrates how chickens have an amazing ability which enables them to keep their heads perfectly stable. It is just one of the many ways birds are better than humans. Irrespective of how their body moves, their head remains perfectly still in a way that their eyes are able to see a very stabilized image.

It is interesting to note that it isn’t just chickens who have this ability. Owls and a couple of other birds have this built-in too. In fact, cats can do it to some extent too, but chickens and owls are definitely better at it.

NASA, before it had sent humans to space, conducted a similar experiment with owls with an expectation that they would learn something that’d help them reduce trauma to humans in space. This is how an owl was moved around by them in every axis possible. It passed every test they threw at it. Look at it go…

The Vestibular Ocular reflex system

Most vertebrates have this device inherently built into their inner ears which has three tubes (probably to detect movement in all three dimensions). The biological device is called the Vestibular system. This is what it looks like. You can clearly see the three semi circular tubes coming out.

These three tubes are filled with a fluid which moves around when the head moves. As the fluid moves, it pushes something called a cupula and converts mechanical movement into an electrical signal. The signal is sent to the brain to process.

As a result, the brain sends back information to the eyes and moves them in the opposite direction. That is how your eyes are involuntarily able to stay focussed at a single point even when you move your hear. This is called the Vestibular ocular reflex system.

But the chicken’s eyes don’t move, so it isn’t probably correct to call it an ocular reflex. Instead their whole head moves in the opposite direction to their body movement. Thanks to the vestibular system. I’m not totally sure, but this could have something to do with righting reflex – the same thing that makes cats turn the right side up when they fall. Please help me with this in the comments section if you know more…

Chicken steady head cam

Using the same amazing biological image stabilization technology that was at his disposal, a youtuber decided to tie a camera to the chicken’s head to make a steady headcam. I think it’s an amazing idea for R&D.

Why Do Bad Eggs Float?

By Anupum Pant

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Instead of cracking up an egg which has been stored for a long time, to end up disgusted by the ‘rotten egg smell’, or the smell of a gas called Hydrogen Sulfide, a simple and a fairly well known way to check if an egg has gone bad, is to drop it in a glass of water and see if it floats. I found out about this first, from an article written at Frugal Living, and spent some time to confirm its claims – Bad eggs float.
If you take my word for it (you should!), it really does work. The article describes this three-point test to find out if an egg is good to eat.

  1. If the egg sinks and lies on its side, it is a fresh one. It is good enough to be eaten.
  2. If it sinks and stands up on a point, or is at an angle, it is good enough. You can still use it up for making hard-cooked eggs or bake it.
  3. But, if an egg floats, it needs to be discarded.

Why does this happen?

To understand, you’ll have to think of a chick – a young chicken.

Poor Chicks: Before chickens come out of the egg, they develop lungs and need oxygen to breath. Sitting inside a sealed egg, with no cords attached, for the chick to survive, oxygen has to come in from somewhere. For that, let us look inside.

Egg Science: The outer shell of an egg has two membranes under it. When an egg is laid, it is warm and starts cooling which contracts the inner part of the egg more than the shell and pulls the two membranes apart. As a result, air gets trapped in between the membranes (not enough air initially for it to float).

How does the air come in? The shell of an egg isn’t as simple as it looks. It has about 7000 tiny pores in that shell which let the air pass in and let the carbon dioxide pass out of it. This is how the chick breathes. And the reason, eggs boiled in colored water during Easter, get colored from the inside.

So, as there are pores present in the shell, bacteria enter the egg and start decaying the biological matter inside. This produces a smelly gas (and other gases too), Hydrogen Sulfide (also present in smelly farts). The gases from this decomposition, and the air from outside, keep increasing in volume as time passes.

Corollary: This is exactly what explains these floating bad eggs – Greater the amount of gas inside, older is the egg and the better it floats in water.

Side note: Egg shells and the two membranes inside have the ability to stop the invasion of micro-organisms and bacteria, but over time bacteria manage to enter.