And back at the farm .....
1. Miracle Mike: The Headless Wonder
If anyone questions a rooster's fortitude -- and thinks a chicken without its head is nothing more than that middle-echelon manager at work -- just remember the legend of Colorado's Miracle Mike, the bird who lived for 18 months without his head.
Poor Mike was only 5 ½ months old on Sept. 10, 1945, when farmers Lloyd and Clara Olsen of Fruita set him on the chopping block. After the ax fell, Mike's head hit the ground, but his birdie bottom kept running around. That sort of movement is typical, for a few moments.
Hours later, however, Mike's bottom just kept flapping. Mrs. Olsen took some pity on poor Mike and, with an eye-dropper, fed him through the opening of his throat. Mike choked a bit. But days turned into weeks and months. Thus, a legend was born.
Early in the morning, Mike would greet the Olsens with a gurgling cock-a-doodle-do. Folks came from miles around to see him. Life magazine did an article about him. He soon joined the sideshow circuit, touring alongside a glass jar bearing his head. People from New York to Los Angeles lined up to pay 25 cents to see the beakless wonder. Mike was valued at $10,000 and insured for the same. That's a lot of chicken feed.
When Mike finally gave up the ghost, an autopsy revealed that Mr. Olsen had achieved the chop of a lifetime, leaving just enough of the bird's brainstem to keep him alive. A clot prevented him from bleeding to death.
Others tried to repeat the Miracle Mike phenomenon. It couldn't be done. One chicken, named Lucky, lived 11 days. Guess he wasn't so lucky after all.
Now, every May, the folks of Fruita, 250 miles west of Denver, hold a "Mike the Headless Chicken" festival, two days of chicken races, egg tosses, a chicken parade and a pin-the-head-on-Mike game for kids. They also eat a lot of chicken.
2. Hollywood 'Freeway Chicken' Still on the Run
The road to Hollywood is paved with broken dreams -- and sometimes congested with gridlock-inducing wild chickens.
For more than three decades, Los Angeles officials have been receiving reports of jaywalking barnyard birds along the Hollywood Freeway, one of the country's busiest roadways. Police have confirmed that the birds really exist. They've been spotted, among other places, near busy exits in Burbank.
The origin of the freeway fowl is unclear. Many believe in 1970 -- the same year "Do the Funky Chicken," was topping the music charts -- a poultry truck overturned, releasing 500 to 1,000 chickens.
The hens among the fugitives were not egg-layers, according to one account. But perhaps their fertility was revived by the famed Hollywood night life.
In the late 1970s, after several complaints, L.A.'s Department of Animal Regulations rounded up nearly 100 birds and shipped them to a Simi Valley ranch, but a few eluded capture and they (or their descendants) exist to this day.
Last August, freeway fowl were reported disrupting traffic as far north as Arroyo Grande, blocking the town's two-way main street. Commuters were upset, but Frank Perdue would have been proud.
3. Original Alaskan Chickens Couldn't Spell
How many birds in America can boast that they've got a city named after them? Indeed, Chicken, Alaska, with less than 50 year-round residents, may not be an urban powerhouse, but it has a rich history. Too bad it has more to do with poor spelling than poultry.
In the late 1800s, gold miners settled in the area, deep in the state's rugged interior. When they sought to form a town, they intended to name it "Ptarmigan," which would one day be the state's bird.
Unfortunately, none of the miners could agree on the spelling of ptarmigan, and residents have been Chickens ever since. Nobody there seems to mind. A local Web site rejoices the town's name by selling "Cluck U" caps and T-shirts.
4. For Hip Chicks: Luxury Hen Spas
Chicks in the city know how to live. The latest in egg-stravagant chicken farming is the deluxe Henspa -- a modern, $1,500 high-tech chicken coop.
A pre-incarceration Martha Stewart was among those who advocated keeping feathered friends as part of the path to fine living. She even spoke affectionately of her birds when announcing that she was ready to begin her five-month prison term.
"I will miss all of my pets," she said in September, "my two beloved, fun-loving dogs, my seven lively cats, my canaries, my horses and even my chickens."
Even if your home is significantly smaller than Stewart's 165-acre Westport, Conn., estate, you can raise chickens. "It's legal in many cities," says Steven Keel of Eggonic Industries. "And more people are doing it."
A Henspa offers chicks the lap of luxury, with heated water bottles, automatic feeders and varmint-proof exercise areas. Like any pet, they'll play around in your back yard, only they're helping prepare tomorrow's breakfast. Take that, Fido.