How long can a chicken live without a head?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “How long can a chicken live without a head?” and provide information on the anatomy of a chicken’s brain, why it can live without a head as well as why a chicken writhes when its head is chopped.

How long can a chicken live without a head?

A chicken might be able to live for 18 months without a head. This phenomenon was observed in the 1940s. A chicken named Mike was able to live for 18 months without a head.

Mike was beheaded however its jugular vein was intact. As a result, the chicken was able to breathe. Another case of headless chicken was observed in Thailand. However, usually chickens die within a few minutes when they are beheaded.

A milk and water mixture was given to Mike through its stump. However, it died after it supposedly choked on a corn kernel.

What is the anatomy of a chicken’s brain?

The nervous system of a chicken can play a very important role in its functioning. There are voluntary and involuntary controls present.

Voluntary control is the chicken’s response to a stimulus. Involuntary control occurs when the chicken has no conscious control over its action. This can include activities like heartbeat, respiration, and circulation.

The brain of the chicken is protected by cranial nerves. There are many special cells present in a chicken’s brain. These are memory cells and cells that help in recognition.

There are 3 parts of a brain which are as follows:

  • The forebrain occupies the cerebral hemispheres and olfactory areas. Both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are present in the lower part of the forebrain. The olfactory areas are responsible for detecting smell.

The pituitary gland is called the master gland and helps in controlling the functioning of other glands. It also helps in regulating the functions of organs, tissues, and body systems.

  • The midbrain consists of the optic lobes that are responsible for the vision of a chicken. The optic lobes of chickens are bigger compared to other animals. 
  • The hindbrain contains the cerebellum and medulla oblongata. 

There are 2 hemispheres present in a chicken’s brain. This can help them process their environment in a completely different manner. As a result, a chicken can use its eyes in 2 different ways at the same time!

While one eye of a chicken focuses on food, the other eye of a chicken can be scanning the environment for predators.

Why can a chicken live without its head?

A chicken can live without its head because there are two openings for the eyes in them. This means that even if the chicken is beheaded, some part of its head might still remain intact.

The chicken has to be cut below their eyes for them to die. If the chicken is sliced above its head, only the forebrain is cut off.

If the beak, cerebellum, and brain stem of the chicken are still present, it would be able to breathe and survive.

A surviving headless chicken is a rare phenomenon. In the case of Mike, his brain stem was intact. As a result, it was able to breathe and control some of its reflex actions.

Why does a chicken writhe when its head is chopped?

A chicken writhing and moving its legs, especially after its head has been chopped is not a sign of its survival.

Panic can cause a chicken to move its legs before its head is chopped. However, movement of postmortem nerves can also cause it to move its legs seemingly after its head is chopped.

Once the head of the chicken is removed, it is not going to feel any pain. The somatosensory cortex part of the brain is responsible for pain. When chicken is cut in the right places, it would not feel pain. 

What kinds of chicken are used in the market?

The kinds of chicken that are used are as follows:

  • Broilers are chickens that are used for producing meat. Broilers require a calorically and protein-dense diet. This helps them grow quickly. Broilers do not lay many eggs and grow quickly which makes them more profitable to farmers.
  • Layers are chickens used for laying unfertilized eggs. These unfertilized eggs cannot hatch into chickens and are safe for consumption. Good nutrition is important for layers to lay good-quality and heavy eggs. Growing layers can be a tedious process.

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have answered the question, “How long can a chicken live without a head?” and provided information on the anatomy of a chicken’s brain, why it can live without a head as well as why a chicken writhes when its head is chopped.

References 

https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/how-long-can-a-chicken-survive-without-its-head/

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