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Residual biomasses to (activated) carbon: prevention of footpad lesions in poultry production.


In Germany, the domestic chicken represents the most common livestock species in terms of numbers, with a population of around 160 million birds in 2014, and the demand for poultry meat has been increasing for years. However, especially in poultry fattening, footpad lesions and high ammonia concentrations in the house air are a serious detriment to animal welfare. While the inflammatory footpad disorders are most likely painful and can restrict bird movement, high airborne ammonia levels are a risk for respiratory disease in animals and humans, among others. Damp, dirty litter in barns is considered to be a major cause of the above-mentioned impairments. Organic poultry farming is also affected by this and even faces greater challenges due to feeding restrictions.

Goals and procedure

The aim of the innovation project with representatives from agriculture, business, science and consulting is to develop and test an innovative poultry litter based on sustainable and regionally produced plant and activated carbons from previously unused residual biomass in northern Hesse to improve animal welfare in poultry farming.

Due to their high internal surface area, plant and activated carbons are characterized by a high water absorption capacity (up to five times their weight) and a high adsorption capacity for various substances, such as nutrients and nitrogen compounds, but also dioxins and mycotoxins. Because of these properties, vegetable and activated carbons represent a promising but poorly researched litter substrate in poultry production to both reduce footpad diseases and ammoni-ac emissions, and potentially promote health when ingested via species-typical scratching and pecking.

Innovations and perspectives

Suitable coals are being used as poultry litter in practical trials and their effects on animal health and house climate are being investigated in an iterative and multi-stage approach. In addition, the utilization of previously unused residual biomass is intended to close regional material cycles and establish sustainable value chains.

Project information

Network Coordinator

Competence Center for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (CliMA), University of Kassel


Department of Grassland Science and Renewable Resources, University of Kassel

Department ofLivestock Ethology and Animal Husbandry, University of Kassel

Organic Fresh Poultry Roth

Hüppe Poultry Farm

Schäfer Organic Poultry Farm KG

Organic farm Krieger

PowerWave Projects

Rüddenklau Bioenergy GbR

Associated partners

Bioland Hessen e.V.

Poultry trade association Hessen e.V.


Funded by

State of Hesse and European Union


Duration: March 2020 - June 2023


Further information

Project within the framework of the European Innovation Partnership Program "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability - EIP Agri" of the Development Plan for Rural Areas (EPLR) of the State of Hesse 2014 - 2020.

Contact person

Dr. habil. Kathrin Stenchly

Dr.-Ing. Korbinian Kaetzl


Short study: Quantification of the (residual) biomass potential in northern Hesse and identification of suitable biomasses for the regional production of high-quality plant and activated carbons as a litter additive in poultry farming



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