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:
The safest and most commonly recommended method for mild to moderate cases of scaly leg mites is a simple, chemical-free process:

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.

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.

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."
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!


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