Please Help Me Solve A Mystery

Please Help Me Solve A Mystery

by Kerry Scott on 10 November 2010

Internet, I need your help.

See this little turkey thingy?  (Or maybe it’s a chicken thingy.  I don’t know.  I’m not a birdologist or whatever.  Sheesh.)

This is part of my vast collection of family dishes and assorted serving pieces.  I have inherited the entire collection from my family—two full china cabinets’ worth.  Unfortunately, I haven’t inherited the story of who owned what and when.  In the case of this poor little chicken/turkey/bird of unspecified species container thing, I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be.  I’ve been able to google the characteristics of some of my items and determine when they were made (and by extension which relative would have owned them).  But not this thing.  This is my mystery piece.

It’s about two inches long.  It has no identifying characteristics—no lettering on the bottom or anything like that.

The top comes off.  It’s not big enough to hold anything of use, other than maybe a small pat of butter or 2-3 individual cranberries.  It’s not big enough to hold an egg (I tried).

It was originally clear; the amber coloring you see is where the bottom cracked in two and was glued back together (long before my time).

Anybody have a clue as to what something like this would have been used for or when it was made?  Do you have this bird’s brethren in your collection of old stuff?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda McCauley November 10, 2010 at 9:09 am

Maybe a Salt Cellar.


Tracer November 10, 2010 at 9:14 am

It’s a “hen on nest” dish. Yours is the smallest I’ve seen.


Dave G. November 10, 2010 at 9:18 am

Apparently identical pattern, though different color / size:

Profile owner is “on vacation” but contact info is probably easy to find —

Searching for indiana glass “hen on a nest” led me to this site: You could probably e-mail Donna and see what she knows about this.

Further googling “hen on nest” or “hen on a nest” turned up LOTS of similar patterns from other suppliers. Apparently this 2-3 inch size range was used primarily a salt cellars.

Best I can do – hope that helps.


Dave G. November 10, 2010 at 8:30 am

Okay, I lied – can do a little better:

The author of this —

Gave a talk in ’04 detailed here w/ presentation notes / pictures available for download –


Angela November 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

We have these in my family. They date from the late ’40s-’50s. The ones we have are larger and have always been used as candy dishes. I’ve never seen one this small.


Brianna November 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

Ooo ooo ooh. I have one of those but mine is bigger and is kind of blue/green purple. I inherited it from my Grandma. I’ve always wondered what it was for (she kept rubberbands in it).


Debi November 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Well don’t I feel smart. I don’t have one of these things but my first thought was a dish for salt. So happy to see I wasn’t far off the mark!


Michelle Goodrum November 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Wow. My mom made something just like this in her ceramics class years ago. It was even the same size. I have always wondered what it was for. I just assumed it was to put rings, earrings n thing in. If we could find it we could ask her…LOL


Kerry Scott November 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Well, clearly the lesson here is: you can ask my readers ANYTHING and get an answer (sometimes before you find out the post went live early because you forgot to change the clock on your blog dashboard). Cool!

(and the other lesson is: know what kind of bird you’re looking at, so you know what to google in the first place)


Susan November 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

We had a few of these around the house at one time. They were in various sizes. I think they were sold at garage sales over the years. It was my understanding that they were candy dishes and may have even included candy at the time of the original purchase. I believe we even had one in white “milk glass.”


Suz November 10, 2010 at 6:10 pm

My grandma used to have a couple of these but they were bigger. She used them for butter dishes but only for breakfast/brunch. If the meal doesn’t involve eggs, we were supposed to use the “regular” butter dish.


kristin November 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm

It would make a great item on the dining room table of a doll house.


Kerry Scott November 11, 2010 at 6:24 am

Ooo, that’s a great idea!


Alex November 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

My mom has a bunch of these. She said her grandmother used them for salt, the Kosher, large crystal type.


Kerry Scott November 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Wow, that would make them older than I thought If they’re the same…your great-grandmother and mine would be about the same age, I guess.


Sandy November 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Jewelry: My Great-Aunt collected chicken/hen items, and had one similar. She kept it in a kitchen cupboard to keep her rings in if doing something “dicey” in the kitchen.


Kathryn September 10, 2013 at 8:14 am

I believe in was salt .


Andrea December 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

HI! I used to go to a glass factory/outlet near Jeanette, PA. In a village called Grapeville. It was Westmoreland Glass Co. They made these and they were called hen on nest. They had various colors of glass including whte milk glass. We used them as covered candy dishes. Later, I moved nearby & went frequently.

Less than 20 miles away, was another glass factory in Mt. Pleasant, PA. It was called Smith Glass Co. I’m not sure if they made the hens on nests. Their colors of glass were more vibrant and deeper, med. blue, orange, deep amber, medium green. They also had an outlet there. So you might check either one. Before I moved from PA, about 8 years ago, Smith was still open, but very low production & very shabby buildings. They had put in a Lenox factory/shipping warehouse & outlet down the road from Smith.


JRitz April 22, 2014 at 6:15 am

So you’ve probably figured this out by now since your post is over three years old, but I can confirm, based on my grandmother, that these little “Hen on a Nest” or “Nesting Hens” were used to hold salt on a table, as an alternative to a salt shaker. Yours is definitely a chicken (hen, specifically), but I believe some glass companies produced roosters, turkeys, and even swans for the same purpose. You’d keep a couple tablespoons of salt in it and then pinch out the amount you wanted to sprinkle on your meal. My grandmother had dozens of them in a collection in a hutch when I was younger. They were very neat to look at. She had them in all different colors and sizes. When she passed a few years ago, I inherited 4 of them in various colors, but all about the size of yours. More than likely, it belonged to a grandmother or great aunt, since they were popular in the 40s/50s. I’m really not big into trinkets and knick knacks, and I have other items of my grandmother’s to remember her by, so I was considering trying to sell mine on eBay, thinking perhaps someone else out there has a collection like my grandmother did and would like to have them. Doing a little online research is what led me to your post. :)


Linda Mills July 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Hi Kerry,
My grandmother collected these hen on a nest minis back in the early 1950′s. They originally came with hard candy “eggs” inside. I have a couple of hers in my china closet. Hope you enjoy them, now that you know what they are.. cali


Lianne McNeil July 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

I’m fairly sure that the little clear “chick salt,” pictured above by the OP, was made by L. E. Smith Glass. Most of the tiny white or opaque ones that size (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches long) were made by Westmoreland Glass Co., and some were made by Portieux of France. The Westmoreland and Porteiux ones have a bottom that looks like a little woven basket. L.E. Smith’s have this cross-hatch type design on the bottom, as do the reproductions from China.

It’s out of print, now, but an excellent resource on glass hen on the nest dishes is the book by Shirley Smith, Glass Hen on Nest Covered Dishes, copyright 2007, published by Collector Books.


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