There apparently is some truth to what I thought was cartoon hyperbole. At least one chicken apparently survived beheading and lived for a long time, supposedly with a little brain stem and esophagus.
In animated short videos that I saw as a child, I remember watching illustrations of the concept. Replete with classical music and goofy actions (chicken raises its wing to feel for its missing head?), this was a commonplace.
Chickens were raised and (though I don’t do so any more) eaten at my house when I was a child. However, I don’t recall ever seeing un pollo sin cabeza in the chicken yard.
But I hadn’t encountered the story of Mike the Headless Chicken. Mike was a roster who lost his head in the 1940s and then went on to a career as a featured performer in a road show. His story is now the basis for an annual festival in the town of Fruita (CO, US), near where he hatched.
Clyde Gore, a now elderly gentleman who actually saw Mike, remarked that he’d “Seen a two-headed calf before at a fair, but not anything without a head. That’s…that’s impossible.” If the reports are accurate, and he’s one of the reporters, it apparently is possible. Here’s a segment from “Ripley’s Believe it or not.”
The festival has a Web site; pay it a visit. You can read the Wikipedia entry about Mike. Also, there’s another longer video on YT that’s the source for the remark by Mr. Gore. Flash of the electrons to Kenan Frager’s “Miracle Mike,” headless chicken, inspires unusual festival in Colorado in the Los Angeles Times for alerting me to this story.