Scaly Leg Mite

Scaly Leg Mite is caused by a burrowing mite (Knemidocoptes mutans) which causes scaly, raised encrusted scales on the legs of chickens and other poultry.

Scaly Leg MiteScaly leg can cause intense irritation to the bird by burrowing under the scales, causing them to become raised and thicken. They are fairly common in chickens.

The scales often look like they are protruding outwards and parts of the scales will come off, making the legs look unsightly. Scales should never be picked or cut off as this will damage the legs. Birds need to be treated to kill the mites and then scales left to come away naturally through a moult. It can take up to 12 months before the scales have moulted and regrown to look normal again.

Warning: There are some remedies talked about that recommend the use of Creosote or Diesel. These chemicals are not safe for your birds and should not be used on them.

Species Affected: All Poultry.
Other Names: Knemidocoptes mutans.
Symptoms: Scaly, raised encrusted scales on the legs.
Area affected: Legs.
Causes: Knemidocoptes mutans – Mite burrowing under scales.
Transmission: Spread by direct contact with other birds. The mite spends its entire life cycle on the bird.
Diagnosis: Contact with other birds, bringing new birds in that are carriers, raised encrusted scales on legs.
Prevention: Good biosecurity.

  • Soften the scales by using Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly) rubbed into the legs or wash with baby shampoo and scrub legs with a small brush like a toothbrush.
  • To kill the mites, dip legs into surgical spirit once per week for 3 to 4 weeks. Vaseline rubbed in between treatments also helps to suffocate the mite. Ivermectin drops (dropped on the skin behind the neck and on the body) kills mites as well as most common worms and some vets will prescribe this to kill the scaly leg mites but always seek the advice of your vet as Ivemectin is not licensed for use on chickens. Surgical spirit may sting, causing distress so you may consider Ivermectin to be kinder).
  • Do not pull off crusts. Scales on the legs can take up to a year to regrow and look normal again.
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Tim Daniels

Tim is the founder of the poultrykeeper website and lives in Herefordshire, UK. He keeps Cream Legbar chickens, Silver Sebright bantams and hybrid layers for eggs, Abacot Ranger ducks, Brecon Buff geese and some quail.

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