It's a clichè that is constantly repeated by the likes of Gordon Ramsey:

You are running around like headless chickens!

headless chicken


Also, for example, they do in South Park animations

Do headless chicken run around? After all, why wouldn't they collapse?

  • They do in South Park animations
    – Paul
    Jan 15, 2014 at 10:01
  • 1
    If you remove the whole head, it will still move but only spasmodically, no walking or running. If you remove the most of the head but leave the brainstem (bottom 1/4 inch of the skull), then the chicken's balance and walking centers are just FINE. All it lacks is any form of guidance. It can live in this state until it bleeds to death, of if bleeding is stopped, until it drops from dehydration. Oct 28, 2020 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


Yes they do, or at least kind of do.

They move after decapitation in a kind of jumping-running-flapping motion, and can be seen in the videos getting out of containers, or traveling several dozen meters away.

Searching for "headless chickens run around" gives a bunch of YouTube videos. All depicting decapitated chickens running around, flapping their wings and jumping. Here are some examples:

Caution: NSFW. Contains graphic content.

  • I am completely nitpicking here, but those videos don't show chickens running by any measure.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 15, 2014 at 11:46
  • In the first and 3rd videos it's kind of running-jumping, but in all videos and other videos I didn't put the chickens move a considerable distance after decapitation.
    – SIMEL
    Jan 15, 2014 at 12:05
  • 2
    Anecdote: When I was a kid we had chickens (and geese). I had to behead chickens once in a while, and yes, their legs and wings work furiously for maybe 15 seconds or so. Feb 19, 2014 at 14:33
  • 1
    @MikeDunlavey same happens when chicken's neck is broken. I saw that once (on a big chicken). Aug 1, 2017 at 13:27

Yes, they are running around, until they dead.

Here is a story of Mike. A chicken refused to dead after beheaded.

The chicken that lived for 18 months without a head

Seventy years ago, a farmer beheaded a chicken in Colorado, and it refused to die. Mike, as the bird became known, survived for 18 months and became famous. But how did he live without a head for so long, asks Chris Stokel-Walker.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 3
    Mike is a famous story, but it is the story of what happens when a chicken doesn't die, when most of its head is chopped off. It isn't representative of the more typical behaviour that the expression is derived from.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 26, 2017 at 15:36

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