The Answer To What Is It 4

Antique Chicken Milk Water Feeder

Everyone who guessed the mystery item was a chicken feeder/waterer was correct. The sweet lady, who gave it to me, said she was told it was used to feed buttermilk to chickens. When she asked why you’d want to feed buttermilk to chickens-she was told buttermilk kept them from getting parasites.

The piece looks as if it was handmade-the lip is thicker on one side than it is on the other. But the lettering and birds make it look like it was mass produced-but then did they mass produce things in 1885?

Jon Freis who runs the American Wild Turkey Hunting Dog Association found the following information about the company that made the chicken waterer:

The early history of Robinson-Ransbottom is complex. The company began as Johnson, Whitmore and Co. in 1856 in Akron, Ohio. In 1862, the company changed its name to Whitmore, Robinson and Co. Products included Rockingham, stoneware and yellowware. In 1900, the E.H. Merrill Co. merged with Whitmore, Robinson and Co. to create the Robinson-Merrill Co. By 1902, the company became the Robinson Clay Products Co

CHICKEN WATERER. (with pictures) Ohio, late 19th century, yellow clay. Molded birds and “Manuf.d. by the W.R. & Co. Akron, O. 1885”. 6 1/2″d.


Since we now have our own little flock of chickens what I’m interested in knowing is if you or anyone you know ever fed their chickens milk or buttermilk?

I researched the topic slightly and mostly found contradictory information.

A big Thank You to everyone who played along with the what is it game!




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  • Reply
    Pam Phipps
    December 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

    My daddy raised fighting roosters and he always fed them buttermilk. He also fed them bread from the breadstore. I have big stock hens and feed them buttermilk.
    I don’t know the reasoning behind the buttermilk, but if daddy did it for his roosters, I’m sure it is fine.
    Merry Christmas

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    When you are talking it looks mass-produced, do you mean because of the wording on the porcelain of the container? They didn’t “mass produce” the way we think of it now back then, but glassware could be molded by pouring into molds. The molds were obviously handmade at that time, so could account for your “uneven lip” LOL Have a wonderful day!

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    December 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Well, I sure was wrong. I looked it up with what you gave about the feeder. It said the bird on the front was a eagle . My husband said they would feed the chickens milk or buttermilk when he was home.
    At our house my Mama used our extra milk, butter and buttermilk as barter for baskets that the ladies who was our neighbors had made. Have you ever milked a cow or got kicked by one and had to churn to make butter? Well, you didn’t miss anything,but I will always remember it and the butter sure was good.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    We had lots of chickens when I was
    growing up, but we never fed them
    any milk or buttermilk. Matter of
    fact, I don’t ever remember our
    chickens being sick. They were too
    busy chasing Junebugs in warmer
    weather. If chickens could talk,
    I bet I’d a got lots of thank you’s for shakin’ many a nose
    drippin’ posseum out of our laurel
    thicket behind the house after dark…Ken

  • Reply
    Mrs. V
    December 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I do give our chickens the milk/yogurt/sourcream that’s gone over for us. Milk doesn’t go bad… it just changes to food for something else.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    December 6, 2012 at 9:37 am

    We always fed our chickens, guineas and turkeys milk both sweet milk and buttermilk and whey from making cottage cheese. I still feed my chickens milk, mostly milk soaked bread (biscuits, light bread and corn bread). In the winter I warm it and feed it just before they go to roost and again as I turn them out the next morning. I like for them to start and finish their day with something warm in their craw. I swap it up sometimes with cornmeal mush or whole corn warmed in the oven but even with that they get some milk every day or two. Chickens enjoy their food and seem to relish treats as much as we do. I’ve rarely been without a flock of chickens for the last fifty years and I still enjoy watching their antics and interaction with each other.
    Ya’ll all have a great day—and take your hens a treat this evenin’.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Well, that was a good game. I like the information given, and I have added it to my learn something new each day. I don’t remember my aunt/uncle having one or more of them. They had a chicken farm in Long Valley, NJ for many years. Very interesting!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

    We never had enough milk to share with the chickens when Mom raised them. I don’t recall anyone in our chicken-raising family feeding them milk. Hmmm. Will have to ask around about that one. Until recently, I didn’t know dogs are not supposed to be fed milk.

  • Reply
    spechul ed
    December 6, 2012 at 8:21 am

    see thair i knowed buttermilk wuz better fur u thin ragler milk. i drank it al the time an i aint got no parasites ner wurms ner nuthin. lessen yu kin call the ol womun a parasite.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Back when I had dairy goats (now I have cashmere goats), my hens and pigs loved the excess milk. I was told never to give them fresh milk, but always to let it clabber first. I’d pour it into a shallow feed pan and let it sit til next day, then feed it.
    I also mixed grain into the milk sometimes; once I was allowed to salvage some field corn after the farmers gave it up as unharvestable after a run of terribly wet weather that left the fields as vast mudbogs. I walked the field with a gunnysack and pulled the dried ears, then used a sheller to take the kernels off each ear. When I wanted to give the critters a treat, I’d soak a couple of pounds of the hard corn in the leftover milk overnight. I was a very popular person in the barn that winter!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

    On the farms in Choestoe Community, Blairsville, I can remember that on occasion a helping of buttermilk was given to our chickens. This was especially true at my Grandpa Collins’ country store where he had a wire-enclosed chicken lot where he kept the chickens he took in trade until the time he took them to Gainesville where he bartered them for goods to bring back to the country store. I’m sure he knew that buttermilk kept them healthier so they would bring a better price in Gainesville. (Maybe he “fattened” them up, too, so they’d weigh more?). But I don’t remember any of us having a chicken-waterer. We just gave the buttermilk in whatever flat utensil we had available. And we would wash the utensil after every “buttermilking”! You stir up good memories, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    December 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

    I’ve never heard of feeding chickens milk or buttermilk. If, back in the day when we milked, there was any extra, it went to the pigs.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I feed my chickens milk quite frequently. They devour it with relish. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 6, 2012 at 7:30 am

    We had flocks of chickens when I was a child but I don’t remember feeding them milk or buttermilk. With six kids and only one cow, milk and its products didn’t last long. So the chickens were relegated mostly to scratch and mash. Sometimes though, their omnivorous nature would take over and they would eat their neighbors’ offspring and/or their droppings. I have even seen them attack and eat a sickly friend.
    Chickens can be incredibly stupid and cruel. Almost as bad as the homo sapiens!

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    December 6, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Did you know that chicks, guineas and turkeys can go to sleep while drinking and and drown?
    I knew that turkeys would drown but just found that out about guineas and chicks lately…
    Back in the day folks would put marbles, small rocks or broken pottery in waterers to keep their heads from falling in the waterer and drowning.
    Guess I was half correct…it was a waterer/feeder…It is so small that I just knew it was for pet birds or for the pigeon coop…ewwwww, I bet after a day outside that buttermilk would clabber into rotten butter…but I have heard of giving milk to the chickens…
    I have given my chickens milk, but only skim milk, who wants a laying fat hen except a fox…LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    I only give my chickens milk if it is left over with the oatmeal…ha

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 6, 2012 at 6:34 am


  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 6, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Li’b, now that is clever. Guess you’d swish some Clorox through it every now and then to keep things from growing in it.

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