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 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.” I do not recommend this medication for backyard chickens.  It is extremely easy to overdose and kill chickens with Ivermectin. 

OPTION 4: Gasoline & A&D ointment (Obviously, do not use this method if the skin is cut, cracked, or lacerated.)

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.

Scaly leg mites on a feral rooster in Key West.

 Healthy leg scales on a chicken's leg.

Healthy leg scales.

 Healthy leg scales on a chicken's legs.

Healthy leg scales and toes.

Kathy Shea Mormino

Affectionately known internationally as The Chicken Chick®, Kathy Shea Mormino shares a fun-loving, informative style to raising backyard chickens. …Read on

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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 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.” I do not recommend this medication for backyard chickens.  It is extremely easy to overdose and kill chickens with Ivermectin. 

OPTION 4: Gasoline & A&D ointment (Obviously, do not use this method if the skin is cut, cracked, or lacerated.)

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.

Scaly leg mites on a feral rooster in Key West.

 Healthy leg scales on a chicken's leg.

Healthy leg scales.

 Healthy leg scales on a chicken's legs.

Healthy leg scales and toes.

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Rural Revolution LLC
10 years ago

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

Rose A
10 years ago

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. :)

Merrijo Cavanaugh
Merrijo Cavanaugh
10 years ago

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.

Meloni Cutberth
Meloni Cutberth
10 years ago

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!!

Fiona McLeod Gregory
10 years ago

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.

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