Mar 14, 2013

Scaly Leg Mites in Chickens, Identification & Treatment

Scaly leg mites (Knemidocoptes mutans) are microscopic insects that live underneath the scales on a chicken’s lower legs and feet. They dig tiny tunnels underneath the skin, eat the tissue and  deposit crud in their wake. The result is thick, scabby, crusty-looking feet and legs. The longer the mites reside under the chicken's leg scales, the more discomfort and damage they inflict; an unchecked infestation can result in pain, deformities, lameness and loss of toes.

Scaly leg mites spread from bird to bird in a flock, therefore when one bird is infected, all should be treated. As always when external parasites are found in a flock, the coop should be thoroughly cleaned.
These are healthy scales on this Blue Ameraucana.
A severe case of scaly leg mites:
OPTION 1: Soak, Oil, Vaseline

1) soak the feet and legs in warm water
2) dry with a towel, gently exfoliating any dead, loose scales.
3) dip feet and legs in oil, (linseed, mineral, olive, vegetable) which suffocates the mites.
4) wipe off linseed oil and slather affected area with petroleum jelly.

The petroleum jelly should be reapplied several times each week until the affected areas return to normal. It may take several months for mild to moderate cases to resolve.

OPTION 2: Sulfur & Vaseline
An alternate treatment option for scaly leg mites is to mix 2 tablespoons of sulfur powder with ½ cup petroleum jelly- applied daily for a minimum of two weeks.

OPTION 3: Ivermectin
In severe cases of scaly leg mite, oral or injectable forms of Ivermectin may be prescribed by a veterinarian. Per Dr. Julie Gauthier, DVM in Chicken Health for Dummies, at p.310, the dosage is 0.2 mg/kg per bird, repeated in ten days.  

Gail Damerow indicates an oral dosage of Ivermectin of 5-7 drops for bantam birds, 1/4 cc for larger birds in The Chicken Health Handbook. She also states that "since the withdrawal time is not known, ivermectin should not be used on birds kept for meat or eggs."

OPTION 4: Gasoline & A&D ointment
This method is recommended by Dr. Michael Darre, PhD, Poultry Extension Specialist for New England at the University of Connecticut. It is effective and works quickly. 

Day 1: DIP the affected legs in gasoline (the cheap gas, no need for hi-test). Don't rub on or brush on, DIP the legs in it. Hold the legs out and allow them to dry. Slather legs with A&D ointment. 
The A&D softens the scales and promotes healing. 

The gas gets up underneath the scales and kills the mites AND suffocates the nits. The nits are the biggest problem when trying to treat scaly leg mites with other treatment options. It can take weeks with other methods and often doesn't kill the nits, so the problem never goes away. 
Day 2: Slather A&D ointment on the legs only- no gasoline on day 2.

Day 3. Repeat the same treatment as Day 1. Gas dip. Dry. A&D. That completes the course of treatment.  
Healthy leg scales
Healthy legs and toes on my Easter Egger, Ethel.


  1. Kathy thank you for the photos and the treatment options. I have an adopted chicken who arrived with scaly leg mites and I have been painting her legs with olive oil only. It has cleared up some but not totally. I may attack it with your extra three steps now.

  2. Meloni Cutberth3/15/13, 10:33 AM

    Thank you so much for the info on how to treat my poor rooster!! I did the soaking in soapy water, apply oil and vasaline one time then I've been painting on oil every other day since. I'm amazed at how fast it's working! Those nasty dead scales are falling off and it's looking so much better!! Not totally there yet but he can walk and run instead of limp and hop like he was!! Thanks again!! And Big John thanks you too!!

  3. Merrijo Cavanaugh3/15/13, 3:41 PM

    wow. That looks painful. I haven't had to deal with it yet, hopefully I don't ever have to. I think having some of the Vetericyn in the chicken first aid kit would be a good idea though. Thanks for the info. and pics as well.

  4. What a huge difference between the look of the healthy feet and the infected feet! I'm visiting today from Let's Get Social Sunday. :)

  5. We went through this recently. Wow, what a difference now!

  6. Ew! I don't have chickens (yet) but the difference is obvious. Thanks so much for sharing at the Creative HomeAcre Hop!
    Hope to see you again this week!

  7. LuAnn Hersey Griffin7/9/13, 11:23 AM

    Hi Fiona, How did you make out with your adoptee?? I too am in the same situation. Just wondering how long it took for your new girls legs to clear up??

  8. This is really interesting. I have 9 birds and today as I was handling them i noticed some of their leg scales felt quite thick and raised.. but they don't look as bad as some of the photos I've seen online so Im not sure if they have scaly leg or if it's normal? We are battling with 'red' mites at the moment which is why we were handling our birds - not great!

  9. TheChickenChick7/11/13, 12:00 AM

    The treatment is simple enough, if you think they could have scaly leg mites, I would treat them.

  10. this is really helpful. i noticed it on my roster and have been putting seven dust on it and it hasn't been working at all. I really think this will work way better.

  11. Evelyn Qualls8/10/13, 6:39 PM

    Is there a difference between scaly leg and scaly leg mites, or are they one and the same. I believe my OEG hen has scaly leg, not as bad as your pictured bird, but also looks like she has pecked between her toes........I would love to win the book drawing tonight....wish me luck! .

  12. TheChickenChick8/10/13, 8:53 PM

    Same thing, Evelyn. Good luck!

  13. Very interesting! I have about 15 silkies now and they have all had this problem of not being able to walk for years now? I have taken them to the vet and he,injects them,but it never goes away? I have tried so many recipes but nothing ever works,some of my chickens have lost toes from this. Nobody ever told me what accually causes this condition? I have tried linseed oil and paraffin mixed and then vaseline after ,but that has not worked either? Maybe I should also disinfect their coop? But with what? I give them clean tess grass once a week in their coop and I sprinkle karbadust in the coop? But what else can I try? I have had silkie chickens for about 20 years now and I have never been able to get rid of this foot problem of theirs? Please help

  14. JessicaHughett12/28/13, 10:19 PM

    Scaly legs (with mites) creep me out! =) Thank goodness for Vaseline!

  15. I've tried both olive oil and vegetable oil on my hens (Isa Browns) when their legs had very pale and raised scales each time their legs appeared to improve but this lasted only for some weeks, I think I'll try your Vaseline method for a complete remedy - thanks

  16. what can we do when our chicken is suffering from this disease and its legs are not working????please tell me as fast as possible.

  17. Hello my name is Jessica we just got 14 chicks and 2 hens we are new to.the question is how to treat what appears
    as mite bites on my five year old child that has held the chicks slot what should I be worried about and how do I treat her.

  18. I found scaly legs on two chickens (the oldest year old Highliners, while my other 6 heritage birds have no sign yet!) I have been soapy water washing and drying legs and treating the whole flock with vaseline/ every 3 days. Chicken bonding time! But I wonder if it is good enough to power wash the inside of the coop and sprinkle food grade DE in nooks and crannies? To break the cycle is something stronger needed? Thank-you for your advice!

  19. Just wanted to pop in and say that my little Cochin roo, Fawkes, is very thankful for this topic, as he had a significant problem with Scaly Leg Mites. I've been moisturizing them with a coconut oil and petroleum jelly mixture, and cleaned/treated their living quarters. Now he (and the gals) are feeling much better!

  20. I just tried coconut oil with tea tree oil this am. So glad someone else is using it also. Hope your flock feels better soon!

  21. Michelle Mugridge5/5/14, 7:42 AM

    Is there any different treatment for feathered feet? My Brahma roo has a mild case of scaley leg mites and I just want to make sure there is nothing special I need to do because his legs and feet are feathered.

  22. Julie Drigot5/9/14, 12:56 PM

    Hi Kathy, Same as Fiona I just adopted a rooster from my friend's flock. I had recently lost my dear old rooster and I thought I'd take on one of hers since she had so many. Wouldn't you know it, this boy has this mite problem really bad. He's lost so many toes and I'm almost tempted to take up the ultimate solution however; I think I'll try the ivermectic first. I don't want to spread this to my excellent flock, so I'm concerned.

  23. Justine Capraro5/9/14, 2:40 PM

    Does treating the legs ensure that they wont get them again or do you have to treat the whole coop too? If so what would you suggest I am pretty sure my flock has scaly legs :-/

  24. Justine Capraro5/9/14, 2:41 PM

    Does this ensure the chickens are not going to get a repeat case or do you have to treat the whole coop as well?

  25. Treatment must be repeated in the coop too

  26. I think one of my chickens has this but her foot is also bleeding. Does that make a difference in the treatment?

  27. Also, can this disease affect or spread to humans at all?

  28. You don't want to put anything harmful on an open wound.

  29. No. It's not a disease, it's a parasite.

  30. Scarlett Phillips6/4/14, 1:15 PM

    I have to input my experience here. I rescued a Serama rooster whose feet were infected and had scaly leg mits so bad that he couldn't stand, drink water, or eat by himself. Needless to say, I thought he would be dead in a couple days at the most.

    I did a lot of research even going so far as taking him to a vet, $40, for the vet to tell me he had no idea what to do for him.

    After all that I did something I didn't think would work but I found out it did. I had read that A&D ointment on the legs would help and heard from "old wives tales" that kerosene worked. After I googled it there were a few who would put 1 part kerosene to 2 parts A&D ointment. Well, after all nothing else had worked as quickly as I needed it to for my rooster. I tried it and within a week 90% of the bad scales were falling off and new scales were growing. At this time he was already losing all but two toes so I really just wanted him healthy.

    I forgot to mention, during his treatment I made sure he had vitamins, antibiotics and a little aspirin for the pain. The directions for the treatment is every other day and I have to say. This works great!

    My rooster is now running around, with one toe, and making sure all the others know he is the boss.

  31. That's not an old wives' tale, that's a legitimate treatment recommended by vets and poultry experts still. I'm glad you were able to figure it out for him!

  32. I introduced a hen a year ago without realizing she had mites or knowing what those mites were. My other hen never got the mites and has healthy legs but my rooster has them. I just did a vegetable oil treatment on the two. But I just introduced a bunch of new chicks to the flock. There's way too many to treat all of them. Is there anything I can do to prevent them from getting the mites?

  33. How does one treat for the scaly leg mite whilst you have a dirt floor? My white Leghorns do not have it but my Isa Browns do. I am pretty isolated here on the Eyre Peninsular where I live but would like to get on top of it for the girls sake. Dirt and oils do not agree with each other. I also have Fox and Cat problems but that I can and do stop.

  34. New to this chicken stuff6/27/14, 11:43 PM

    I know I might not be talking with you all about the scaly leg mites, but I do need some help. I have an araucana chick about 2 months old and she is having issues
    standing. It is like she is drunk walking around and she only can walk a
    short distance before she wants to lay down again. She is the smallest
    out the the four chicks that I have and I don't know if she is getting
    picked on or stepped on to cause the walking issue or if there is
    something else wrong. I really need this chick to get better, so what
    can I do. These are my first chickens I have had.

  35. I found out I have this problem too,, was removing some chicks and had to catch the hen and hold her, I discovered this (very bad case) in 4 of 6 birds. I have been searching the internet for answers and found a video of Dr. Harry Cooper treating a flock with sever cases with 5 drops on ivermetcin on their neck below their heads or under the wings and he said to toss the eggs for 14 days. My chickens are not tame (I have tried and makes me sad since I raised them from day old chicks) and need a solution that is not traumatic for them or me and soaking their feet in warm water for 20 mins a day.....I thought about making a sock hood for them to keep them calm. I also found Vetrx (from you) but that goes in their drinking water....what are your thoughts? I did search your site first but there is no poultry vets in my area. I have sprayed their roosts with Adams flea spray with growth inhibitor that stops the cycle of eggs hatching. (can't hurt and I don't like sevin dust,)

  36. My two little serama hens Moonshadow and Moonglow both have this horrible mite.
    $110 fee to the vet. YIPES
    Treatment. Bath legs in a mix of hand soap and warm water. Spend some time to gently bath away as much of the horrible scaily build up.
    Dry legs,feet.
    Spray on a generous amount of Betadine and apply a very generous coating on Rawleighs animal and man antiseptic ointment cream.
    Any crean or oil such as kerosene,cooking oil, olive oil is OK in accordance with my vet.
    Last of all. My little girls are around half a kg, so four drops of AVIMEC between the shoulders Twice per week.
    They are both sitting on the patio table on a news paper talking to me as I write this comment.

  37. Yes Vadeline is also good. What this does as per most greasy or oily substances do is to cut off air to the mite and basically smothering them.
    I use AVIMEC. WARNING !!

  38. I regularly use Ivermectin for worming and for mite/lice control. I buy 1% INJECTABLE for cattle and swine, mix 4cc in 1 gallon of water and give as only source of water for 2 days. Repeat in 10 days to break life cycle of lice/mites. I treat at least 2X a year (total of 4 times, since I treat then retreat 10 days later). You can buy it in any feed store. It is off label for poultry but has been used on fowl for more than 30 years and my avian vet said it was safe and effective. They even use Ivermectin on humans. Loved the tip to use sulfur (brimstone) mixed with Vasoline. I have an old Black Copper Marans hen, I just noticed that has a pretty bad case of the scaly leg mites. I feel bad that I didn't catch it sooner. She is on Ivernectin, and I mixed up the sulfer/Vasoline and have been giving her the 'spa treatment'. She already looks much better. Sulfur can be added to dust baths too.

  39. I regularly use Ivermectin for worming and for mite/lice control. I buy
    1% INJECTABLE for cattle and swine, mix 4cc in 1 gallon of water and
    give as only source of water for 2 days. Repeat in 10 days to break life
    cycle of lice/mites. I treat at least 2X a year (total of 4 times,
    since I treat then retreat 10 days later). You can buy it in any feed
    store. It is off label for poultry but has been used on fowl for more
    than 30 years and my avian vet said it was safe and effective. They even
    use Ivermectin on humans. Loved the tip to use sulfur (brimstone)
    mixed with Vasoline. I have an old Black Copper Marans hen, I just
    noticed that she has a pretty bad case of the scaly leg mites. I feel bad
    that I didn't catch it sooner. She is on Ivermectin, and I mixed up the
    sulfer/Vasoline and have been giving her the 'spa treatment'. She
    already looks much better. Sulfur can be added to dust baths too.

  40. Nicole in Eastern Canada7/19/14, 3:13 PM

    when can I treat my mother who just hatched out chicks today. I don't want vaseline all over them and I don't want mites on them either. How and when can I treat newly hatched chicks?

  41. Is there any recommendation for preventing mites? We use straw as a ground cover currently because we haven't had a chance to switch to sand. The ladies at the pet store suggested diatomaceous earth but I am concerned about respiratory complications. We just got the ladies healthy from a mite infestation and I do not want to go through that again. Thanks so much!

  42. Do the mites live in the soil of coop also? If I change the hay in nesting boxes, what else do I need to do?

  43. Will scaly leg mites cause breeds such as the brahma to loose their leg feathers? I am trying to figure out if the lack of feathering is due to one of my hens pecking them out or if something else is going on. I have 2 brahmas and both have rough looking legs, they sometimes have a little blood on them, and the younger one has NO feathers on her legs and the older one has very little. I can share a pic if that will help. I am desperate to figure out what is going on. I have someone willing to take the hen I believe might be pecking them out, but I am not sure that is actually what is going on because I have never seen her do it. She used to chase the younger brahma around when she was little and that is the only reason I suspect her. But my other hens are untouched and the brahmas are only missing leg feathers. I am so confused.

  44. Scaly leg mites are pretty obvious- the scales are pried up away from the leg.

  45. I'd like to know the best way to de-mite the hen house (scaly leg mites that is). We have an old cement floor and walls, and use wood chips for bedding. I have one barred rock henwho came about 4 months ago as a pullet ( with another one) . A few days ago, she was very lethargic, and then I noticed that she was almost lame. After reading your blod, I figured scaly mites. Now I have her in the kitchen and am about to put on the vaseline after, wash dry, brush and oil! I'm not sure I can catch the others except at night, which I guess I'll have to do. We just add chips to what's on the floor, and change once a year- as was suggested in a chicken book. My 7 hens and one rooster have a pretty big yard ( about 70 square meters). None of the others seem to be having this problem, but I will ahve a closer look now. But should we change all the wood chips( I JUST did this a few weeks ago!) and if so, what should we put on the floor to detur an infestation. would neem oil work?

  46. I sure hope #4 works. My 2 poor salmon faverolles have this pretty bad, and I just finished the gas/A&D treatment tonight. Too many toes!

  47. You can count on it, Gina. Give me an update on Facebook at the end of the week!

  48. Update on how the treatment worked

  49. Worked great, it's good tho see their little pink feets again! Only problem we had was a greasy roost from the ointment. Used the bottom of a 1-liter soda bottle for the gas, and waited till they were settled down at dusk to work. Thanks a bunch!

  50. Rebecca Ashley9/24/14, 9:52 PM

    I just got a new chicken who I'm fairly certain has these mites. How long should I keep her separate so the other girls don't get them too? I've started treating her with option 1. Thanks!

  51. Treat her right away and then re-treat as described in this article.
    The following article will help with your quarantine questions:

  52. Cheri Hentschel9/27/14, 11:36 AM

    Looks like one of our hens has these mites. Unfortunately, she is the most timid and very difficult to catch. Any tips for keeping her still once we catch her?? I'm picturing myself coated in gasoline and A&D.

  53. Do it after dark with a partner. Take her off the roost and work by flashlight.

  54. did your cockerels feet go all yellow and mushy? i am really worried about my boy.we have been treating his feet with veg oil every 3 days for 19 days now but they still seem quite bad and chunks keep coming off when i was and disinfect his feet.please can you give me any advice i cant really afford to take him to the vet .

  55. Hello - Is there any withdrawal period for the eggs using this method?

  56. Egg withdrawal - I would like to try the gasoline method, but is there any issues with egg laying?

  57. What's A&D ? I'm from Australia.

  58. Is there a way to reuse the old chicken coop hay/materials or are they better off being disposed of?

  59. Hi there i have a friend with chickens and they are starting to drop, they seem to not beable to walk on there legs, do you know what would cause this, i heard that the mites can not kill the chicken, any information would be great..Thanks JOhnna

  60. Crazy chicken lady10/28/14, 10:30 PM

    I think my 2 older hens have mites - unfortunately I'm a totally newbie and added 2 new chickens to our coop before I realized that the 2 others had mites (and before reading about quarantining). They are in a separate section but not quarantined. So ...I treated the whole coop with permethrin and did the oil/vaseline treatment with the 2 infected. Do I have to worry about my new girls or do you think that's good enough? I plan to keep treating the 2 until it's resolved. Thank you for all the great info!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...