How to Naturally Treat Scaly Leg Mites in Chickens

chickens exhibiting symptoms of scaly leg mites
These hens show signs of scaly leg mites as evidenced by the rough, lifted leg scales.

What are Scaly Leg Mites?

Scaly leg mites are a common parasite affecting backyard chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other poultry. These tiny mites aren’t visible to the naked eye however, their damage is easily identifiable. The leg scales of infested birds become thickened and rough, with flaky, lifted edges and a crusty appearance. If left untreated, the mites can cause pain, lameness, deformed feet, and possibly even the loss of parts of their toes and decreased thriftiness.

Domestic fowl may be infected by mites spread through wild birds, the introduction of affected poultry to your flock, rodents, mites present in the soil, or used poultry equipment. To prevent transmission of scaly leg mites to your chickens, always quarantine new birds and prevent rodents and wild birds from getting into your chicken coop, feed, and pastures, if possible. Be sure to check your chickens for this parasite regularly, treat them immediately if symptoms are present, and provide your flock with a dust bath of sand or wood ashes to reduce issues with mites and other parasites.

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severe scaly leg mite infestation
This photo of a severe case of a scaly leg mite infestation was originally published in a book about livestock diseases. I found this photo here.

How to Treat Scaly Leg Mites Naturally

Most infestations may be treated with petroleum jelly or another non-toxic oil that coats the leg scales, suffocating the mites and promoting the healing of damaged tissue. However, for backyard chicken enthusiasts who wish to avoid petroleum products, use my recipe for petroleum-free jelly for a natural alternative that is effective against these parasites.

For the best results, follow these instructions for treating scaly leg mites in poultry:

  • Coat the legs and feet with petroleum-free jelly daily until healthy leg scales replace deformed scales
  • Check for crusty residue on combs and wattles and treat these areas, also
  • Avoid coating the feathers with oily medications
  • Clean the coop, nest boxes, and roosts thoroughly and disinfect
  • In extreme cases, treat your flock topically with 1% Ivermectin (#ad) by applying it to the legs and feet

Several products containing neem oil, pyrethrins, or other ingredients are also available online for treating scaly leg mites. While I haven’t tried any of these on my chickens, they should be safe for your flock. Some products are also recommended for use in the prevention of these parasites. In the event that I try any of these products, I will update this article with my experience.

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Keep Your Flock Healthy and Happy!

Check the health of your chickens, ducks, and other poultry on a regular basis to prevent serious diseases from taking a toll. Keep their digestive health in good order by feeding homemade probiotics and preventing sour crop and impacted crop issues quickly. Here are some other ways to keep your backyard chickens safe and healthy:

  • Provide free-choice grit for proper digestion
  • Give them a good quality feed for the proper stage of life (ie: layer feed for laying hens)
  • Keep feed in moisture- and rodent-proof containers
  • Provide a draft-free coop with proper ventilation
  • Give your birds enough space to prevent stress
  • Provide access to a dust bath area for your flock
  • Keep the coop cleaned to prevent ammonia build-up
  • Allow the flock to forage on pasture
  • Keep rodenticides, pesticides, and other toxins away from livestock
  • Provide clean water daily
  • Never feed moldy or rancid scraps or feed
  • Do not over-feed your flock

For more information about scaly leg mite identification and treatment, check out this article. Want to know more about keeping a healthy flock of chickens in your backyard? Check out the following books!

You might also be interested in these 10 Easy Ways to Grow Your Own Chicken Treats!

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