Scaly Leg Mites in Chickens, Identification & Treatment

Scaly leg mites 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.

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.

Rachel Divider
Scaly leg mites 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.

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 leg scales on this Blue Ameraucana chicken.
These are healthy scales on this Blue Ameraucana.
A severe case of scaly leg mites:
A severe case of scaly leg mites

TREATMENT OPTIONS

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 re-applied 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 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. This is the method I would use on my chickens if necessary.

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 all 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 on a chicken's leg.
Healthy leg scales
 Healthy leg scales on a chicken's legs.
Healthy legs and toes on my Easter Egger, Ethel.

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Kathy, The Chicken Chick®EmilyAnn WallaceMarciaJess m Recent comment authors
Emily
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Emily

I have chicks that I believe their broody mother may have had leg mites. A few of the chicks have ever so slightly raised scales. I’ve been treating with just vaseline but today I tried vegetable oil+ vaseline.
Some of the vegetable oil got on their under bellies and I wiped as much as I could off. The remainder they’re attempting to preen off themselves. Will ingesting vegetable oil hurt them considering how small they are (they’re about 2 weeks old)? Or possibly get too cold?

Ann Wallace
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Ann Wallace

Kathy, my rooster is a frizzle. He has leg mites and the skin on the sides of his legs where the foot feathers grow is red. Should I still do the gasoline method? I would think this would be more painful for him. Thanks for your help.

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