The weird way scientists want to use chicken poop

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You may think the only place poultry poop belongs is in the trash. But a group of scientists funded by Landmark University in Nigeria envision a more environmentally friendly use for chicken waste: turn it into biofuel, they say, and use it to run generators—and maybe, one day, cars.

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As it is now, chicken poop can prove problematic for farmers: feces can contain nutrients, hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals that wash into soil and surface water—the exact places you don’t want it to be. But if the droppings can be scooped up and repurposed, they can go from dangerous to useful in a (relatively) easy few steps, the scientists claim in their research, published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Energy & Fuels. All you have to do, they say, is combine the poop with Mexican sunflowers, another problem product.

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Mexican sunflowers are beautiful, ornamental plants, but they have the capacity to grow like weeds and threaten agriculture across the entire continent of Africa, where the plants were introduced decades ago. When the sunflowers and chicken feces are digested together by anaerobic microbes though, biogas is created, the scientists found. In other words, they could kill bad two birds—chicken poop and a pesky plant—with one stone—anaerobic microbes.

The scientists say that about eight kilograms (or a little more than 17 pounds) of the feces and sunflowers could produce more than three kilograms (or about six-and-a-half pounds) of biogas, which is “more than enough fuel to drive the reaction and have some leftover for other uses such as powering a generator,” and maybe more, the scientists say.

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After all, considering how many chickens there are in the U.S.—we eat eight million of them each year alone—and the success of this research, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to envision a dystopian future that includes cars powered by chicken poop. The only question is, would it be cheaper than good ol’ gasoline? Here’s hoping.

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