Scaly Leg Mites in Backyard Chickens

April 30, 2012
Did you know that there are mites that specifically love to live on your chickens’ legs and feet? They like to burrow underneath of the scales on the legs and feet and live in this moist environment. Unlike the mites that live on the chickens’ bodies, they cannot kill your chickens. However, they can make the chickens irritable, decrease or cease the production of eggs and lead to permanent leg deformities. They are important to treat once discovered in your flock.

You will see the scales on your chickens’ legs and feet will have a “lifted up” appearance.  Some cases are mild, while others are severe.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Treat your chickens

1.  Soak your chickens’ legs and feet in a warm soapy bath to soften and loosen any dead scales.  Some people add a flea and tick shampoo to the water.  After the soak, dry the legs and feet.

2.  These mites are killed by suffocation.  Apply Vaseline to the legs and feet of your chicken. Try to rub it underneath of the scales that are lifted. Repeat every couple of days for a couple of weeks. It will take at least 10 days to break the life cycle of the mite. Some people who keep chickens with feathered feet suggest using Adams Plus Flea and Tick Mist with IGR (Insect Growth Regulator). However this has chemicals that you may not want your chickens to be exposed to. Manna Pro Poultry makes an all natural Scaly Leg Protector that treats for these mites as well. In addition, Campho-Phenique has also shown some results when people have applied topically.

3.  For severe case, some veterinarians prescribe Ivermectin.  This is a very potent medication.

4.  Inspect all of your flock members for signs of scaly leg mites.  If you are concerned or in doubt, it does no harm to spray their legs with a product like the Scaly Leg Protector from Manna Pro.

4.  Healthy scales will grow back but it can take up to one year.

Treat your Coop:

1.  Clean out your coop and thoroughly disinfect it.  Lock your flock out of the coop after you treated each chicken. In a one gallon bucket create a soapy bleach solution by adding warm water, a couple of capfuls of bleach and a bit of Dawn dish detergent. Scour the inside of the coop and all of the roosts. If you can, remove the roosts and give them a good scrub. Allow the coop to air dry and then apply food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) to every nook and crannies that you see. The Pest Pistol works great for this. Be sure to sprinkle some in the nesting boxes too.  RECLEAN your coop in this manner in 10 days again, to break the life cycle of the mites.


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20 thoughts on “Scaly Leg Mites in Backyard Chickens”

  1. I recently 'spring cleaned' our coop! whew- what a job.
    Your post is the FIRST POST I've read that said, RETREAT IN THIS MANNER, IN 10 DAYS!
    That is either something I've over looked– or information that is taken for granted. Thanks for this information.
    Now, back to the drawing board!

  2. Hi Corn in my Coffee-Pot, no need to reclean the coop after a normal Spring cleaning, however, if you do have mites, I feel it is important to reclean the coop to be sure that you are indeed breaking that life cycle of the mites. If we are retreating our chickens then we should re-treat the coop 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

  3. I have learned that if I treat the legs with marigold salve or vaseline then wrap the legs in a cloth bandage it helps kill the mites but also allows the raised scales to come off easier than trying to cut them off….most of the scales never grow back unless there is mild damage but the bad ones that have the cement as I call it will sometimes tear the leg skin so you get infections…so by wrapping & taping them for 7 days the chickens stay comfortable then when I remove the bandages & wash the legs the nasty old scales ect come off without any tearing or bleeding to the chickens….now this may not work if you have tons of chickens but an old farmers trick was to warm up cooking oil in a bucket & dip each chicken legs up to the feathers in it & then let them go……for me this is just so messy & with only 20 or so chickens I do the ointment type of thing…if I have to do all the chickens I wait til they go to bed then go out with a flash light & doctor each chicken & put them back on the roost…for the bad ones I will bring them in the house, soak their legs in warm water in the sink for about 5 minutes, dry the legs, treat them then use the self sticking horse bandages on the legs & put them back in the coop. After 7 days I will remove the bandages which I will tell you have to be cut off sometimes cause of dried poo but I have happier chickens because of the time I take to do it…..The thing I hate about leg mites is they can cause bleeding from their bites & then you can get nasty infections if not watched or if the chicken is in pain from the mites they will pull the scales out trying to get to the mites & cause bleeding.
    I do a good leg mite treatment twice a year to even the ones who have tight scales just to be proactive…..Michele'

  4. Thank you so much for posting about the scaly leg mites. Without it, I would never have known that my broody hen, Sadie, had this very condition. After reading the post, I noticed her feet and legs had the raised up scales and were all crusty. I have been taking her off the nest twice a day for food, water, exercise and to socialize. I took her in immediately to soak her feet and applied vaseline. Her legs have greatly improved already. You post wonderful information for all us first time moms. I have learned so much. Keep up the good work.

    • Ditto! The pictures are also very helpful in nailing it down. I've been reading lots of info on the scaly leg mites. I recently got rid of my flock of 24 hens that seemed beyond treating (bad legs, little to no egg production)and am starting fresh with pullets. I'm nervous about the coop and this is the first post I've read with info on treating the coop. Thanks!

    • I am so happy to hear that you both found this post so helpful. I am always happy to share what I learn anytime. Feel free to ask questions anytime on our Facebook page too.

  5. Hello, I have been following your blog for a couple months now and Love it. I have had such a bad experience with scaly leg mites but after reading this post I am almost completely successful at ridding
    my chickens of this terrible bout.

  6. This was very helpful. I just recently added to my flock and noticed one of the hens had a severe case of scaly leg mites. The others in the flock have it mild. I treated and cleaned the coop. I even used VetRx along with vaseline. Shirley's (Barred Rock hen)scales are already coming off. Since the others only had a mild case of leg mites will their scales come off too? Thanks…I'm new to raising chickens.


  7. I have hens for over a year given to me for my allotment all with scales ,i thought it was because they were old ,I sold 5 out of 6 to local market and bought 6 new birds ,my ignorance worries me now , tomorrow i will clean the old bird Mary and oil her legs and also clean all the new girls ,and they can go in the greenhouse for a week while I Jaysfluid the coop ,wish I had known the scales was a mite .thanks for the information ,wish I still had al my 1st girls but my new ones are all young and different breeds who have flocked together perfectly ,just want old Mary happier she will be treated every day untill her legs are like a balarina

  8. we use the deep litter method for the coop floor, but the older chickens seem to have picked this up at some point (they will be 3 in the spring) the young ones are 6 months old and don't seem to have any trouble yet.. How do you fully clean out a deep litter coop? or should we just concentrate on the non deep litter areas?

    • Stephanie, great question. Most likely, you will need to empty out the entire coop, do a thorough deep cleaning and start over with your deep litter method. You should also treat those affected birds. Using the deep litter method, you should be emptying the coop out completely at least once or twice a year anyway if you are not doing that already for a deep cleaning, so perhaps now is a great time to do this before the cold of winter sets in.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.