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. Most importantly 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.  First apply Vaseline to the legs and feet of your chicken. Be sure to try to rub it underneath of the scales that are lifted. Then repeat every couple of days for a couple of weeks. Most importantly, 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. Care Free Enzymes 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.

4.  Know that 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.  First lock your flock out of the coop after you treated each chicken. Then 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. Next, scour the inside of the coop and all of the roosts. If possible, remove the roosts and give them a good scrub. Lastly, 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.  Most importantly, RECLEAN your coop in this manner in 10 days again, to break the life cycle of the mites.



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33 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!

      • You’re disgusting. You obviously didn’t take care of your first flock. You don’t deserve another one to neglect all over again. People like you shouldn’t have animals period.

      • Wow! I’m at a loss for words. For you to leave such a terrible comment and post it anonymously. My amazement never ceases at what some people will type to others as they hide behind their keyboards. If you have nothing nice to say, then please don’t say it. This community is a place of kindness.

    • 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.

  9. Hi
    I bought 5 hens (3 Plymouth Rocks and two light Sussex, supposed to be about 18 months old) 4 days ago to add to my one for year old hen (Australorp). All 5 have scaly leg mites some very bad (my Australorp has beautiful clean legs). I put petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on all of them tonight for first time while they were roosting. I will try to do nightly. Also doing my original hen to try to stop any going on to her. May try to soak new girls on weekend, but are not as used to being handled, not sure how they’ll take to a bath… Do I still need to disinfect my coop? (Coop pretty clean, I use untreated dust extracted pine shavings on floor and in nest box). Off topic but my old hen is bossing all the new hens, they now all move away from her as soon as she nears. (She only pulls an occasional single feather because they move away as soon as she approaches.) They are all roosting on one perch mostly in peace, with original hen on one end of perch, rest bunched up at other end. I have multiple food and water set up for now (have feeder and two cup waterer in coop, but have shallow bowls set up in run for now because the hens could get picked on if use feeder or waterer.
    I am taking my Australorp out of run into backyard for a couple of hours each day to give others a break (she is hassling them even when they try to lay an egg, she is very happy to have whole backyard area and seems a tiny bit more tolerant when put back into run). Any suggestions to make integration quicker and more amicable for all?

    • Hello, all good questions. Hopefully I can answer them all for you. Yes, you will need to disinfect your entire coop. Mites are nearly microscopic so I would definitely do so. Your old hen is fearful and she is letting the others know that she is not to be messed with. It is overwhelming for one to integrate into a new flock but possible. She is figuring out as well as they where she fits into the pecking order that pre-existed before her. Its going to take a few weeks to integrate them. The Australorp probably enjoys the break you are giving her. Also, I would let them all free-range together as that too can be helpful. Remember, the new flock is in “her” coop. She is territorial.

  10. Thank you for the great information! Do you happen to know if the Scaly Leg Protector is the same as the Poultry Protector? I can’t seem to find the Scaly Leg Protector anywhere and wondered if they just changed the name of it??

    • Oh thank you for reaching out. No, it is not the same. Manna Pro in the past has worked with Care Free Enzymes and marketed and sold the Care Free Enzymes product under their name. The Scaly Leg Protector is now under the Care Free Enzymes label and you can find the Scaly Leg Protector here.I will update the post link. Thanks so much.

  11. Hi- I just treated two of my hens with a similar method. It worked great! Because their feet looked so sore and were cracked in places, I used Neosporin first and then a healthy dose of Vasoline as a topcoat. I couldn’t believe how much better they felt after just one treatment. They had literally walked when the others ran and sat while the others scratched and pecked the ground before the treatment. After a day of treatment, they were moving around and behaving so much more lively. Their combs also brightened up. To make sure everyone was protected, I also gave my entire flock Ivermetin. I just administered their second dose (10 days later for those pesky nits). Since beginning treatment a few weeks ago, the two with the infected feet are now sporting pink skin where there had been lifted scales. I take it as a good sign, but how long will it be before new scales form over this fresh skin? It’s winter now- windy, wet and cold in northwest Washington. Should I continue to apply Vasoline until new scales show up to prevent her skin from drying out and cracking or will they be fine without it?

    • Great job Stephanie, your flock is so lucky to have you. I would probably keep applying the vaseline until the new feet scales grow in. I too agree keeping them protected from the elements will be key. Hope this helps.

  12. Hi, i know this post was a long time ago… i have a bad case of them – i have all Silkies, satin/frizzle/plain- it’s hard to see themites through allthe feet feathers – but i have two hens currently sitting on a clutch how do i clean the coop – do i move them temporarily at night somewhere with their eggs. last time i tried to movethe moms theyrejected their eggs and rolled them downthe ramp of theother coop. 🙂

    let me know if you have any ideas. my roo,has them SO BAD helooks like a dinosaur. i went away for 3 weeks and came back to find him andone other with bad cases.

    • Oh dear, It is a battle to deal with them. Cleaning the coop leaving the broodies alone at first, then moving them with their eggs to clean boxes. Keep at it and good luck.

  13. I grew up on a farm and my parents had chickens. They never had all the problems that chickens seem to have nowadays. No poopy bottoms, No leg mites, eg stuck in the vent, chicken dumping egg basket, respiratory issues !
    I have had 7 hens I keep in a coop, and a large fenced-in area for them to be in in the daytime.
    I keep straw of chicken bedding in the coop and nesting boxes and always sprinkle diatomaceous earth in the coop bedding and next. I change the bedding every two to 4 weeks. I am down to 3 hens and one or two has a poopy bottom I just noticed today it looks like they may have leg mites… a couple of time they have gotten chicken mites. I just check and they don’t seem to have them now.. I am so frustrated that there is so many problems with chicken nowadays…

    • Hello, I would suggest eliminating the straw and using pine kiln shavings instead. Remove the straw, spray down the inside of the coop to eradicate the mites and then do the shavings and DE. I have a feeling the mites are living inside the straw and replacing the straw 2-4 weeks is not frequent enough to break up the mites’ lifecycle.


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