Why birds? For the eggs, of course! No other animal provides such a valuable and versatile benefit. Eggs can be used in cooking to add volume when whipped (soufflés, sponge cakes, marshmallows), as a thickener (custards, sauces), as a binding agent (to adhere bread crumbs, to hold meatloaf or crab cakes together), as an emulsifier (in mayonnaise, salad dressings, Hollandaise sauce), as a clarifier (soups, coffee), as a crystallization retardant (candy, frosting), as a glaze (breads, cookies), and as a garnish (hard boiled, deviled). For eating, eggs can be prepared in a variety of ways including fresh (raw, egg nog), fried (sunny side up, over easy, over hard, basted, steam basted, omelet), scrambled (breakfast burrito), poached (egg drop soup), hard boiled (egg salad), deviled, and baked (quiche, frittata). Eggs are considered the perfect protein source, and are classified with meat in the protein food group because they contain 18 amino acids, nine of which are essential to the daily needs of the human body.
Not only do eggs have great nutritional value, but they also have a wide variety of other uses, such as:
Eggs are not the only reason that we choose to keep birds. It is easier to raise poultry on a small parcel of land than it is for most of the larger livestock. Poultry do not require much space to be comfortable, safe, and to thrive. For example, a chicken only needs 3-4 ft2 for housing, 10 ft2 for exercise, and do not need any access to pasture. This means that an expensive and expansive electric fence is not required. They do, however, need the exercise and housing areas to be secure from predation, which takes time, requires monitoring, and has some expense.
Birds have unique personalities and behaviors that make them fun to spend time with. The larger birds remember who they see frequently, especially those bringing treats. Their dietary range is vast, making it fun to give them nearly everything that would otherwise go down the garbage disposal. The smaller birds have shorter memories, but know a treat when they see it. I always get a chuckle seeing the quail jump up and down at a fevered pace when I deliver the days’ sunflower sprouts. Also, no matter how old the quail are, when I walk into the coop the cockerels always ensure each of his hens are serviced before their perceived impending doom.