Have you noticed a deformity of your chicken’s leg and feet and issues with their mobility? If so, there is a good chance that your chicken or your flock has scaly leg mites!
Scaly leg mites are ectoparasites that commonly attack older or adult backyard chickens, poultry, turkeys, and pheasants. They are relatively common and can cause major health complications- infections and feet deformities among others.
These stubborn pests are treatable, but noticing the change in your chicken’s behavior and appearance is vital. Numerous symptoms can help you identify the presence of scaly leg mites in chickens.
Before we dive into symptoms, infestation, identification, treatment, and prevention tips, let’s check out some general information about scaly leg mites!
General Information About Scaly Leg Mites
So as mentioned, scaly leg mites are ectoparasites or parasite that lives outside their host, such as fleas. These tiny microscopic burrowing insects, known as Knemidocoptes mutans, live underneath the scales on chicken’s feet and legs.
They are problematic as they dig tunnels underneath the chicken’s skin, eating the tissue and depositing crud and eggs wherever possible. As noted, they are very small and hard to notice; they are round with four legs and practically invisible to the naked eye.
What Are the Symptoms of Scaly Leg Mites in Chickens?
Although you cannot see this little parasite, you can notice differences in chickens’ behavior and the appearance of their legs and feet, and sometimes even on their beaks.
1. Deformed Feet /Legs
If you have been keeping chickens for a period, you already know the normal appearance of chicken feet. When their feet are infested with scaly leg parasites, they usually get deformed, resulting in thick, scabby, crusty feet and legs.
Most people describe this symptom as ‘peeling skin’ as their scales become uneven and lifted. Basically, you will notice flaky and damaged scales, which are one of the earliest symptoms of scaly leg mites.
So, if you see your chicken walking unusually or weirdly, ‘inspect’ their legs to see if there is a scaly leg mite infestation.
One of the prominent signs of scaly leg mites in chickens is lameness, or the inability to walk properly or correctly due to an injury, illness, or in this case, infestation.
However, remember that the causes for lameness can also be non-related to scaly leg mites, such as Marek’s disease. In addition, to differences in their walk and gait, some chickens also lose joint mobility.
3. Inability to Roost
Although this is mainly reserved for roosters, they stop roosting when their skin gets infested with these external parasites. It is not likely connected with their act of roosting, but the whole chicken’s demeanor changes, as it is distressed and in pain.
How Does Chicken Get Infested With Scaly Leg Mites?
When treating a problem such as scaly leg mites, it is important to know how chickens get infested and spread among chickens. Usually, one chicken gets infested with scaly leg mites after getting in contact with wild birds or rats.
These tiny mites can also be found on the ground or in soil.
Scaly leg mites are very contagious and they can easily go from one chicken to another during their resting or sleeping time. Therefore, if you suspect your chickens might be infected, you must clean or replace nesting boxes.
Interestingly, these parasites can be dormant. They can ‘rest’ on a chicken until its immune system weakens or they get wounded or infected with something else. Scaly leg mites spend their entire life underneath the chicken’s skin, entering through feather follicles and damaged skin cells.
What is The Best Treatment for Scaly Leg Mites?
When dealing with such a serious problem, the first step is to make sure you have the right diagnosis! Other skin problems and infections, such as bumble foot, can cause swelling of the feet, which is also a symptom of scaly leg mites. Therefore, if you are not sure, consult a vet!
Usually, the diagnosis is made by microscopic identification of the mites done by examining chicken’ skin scrapings. However, the medical signs are evident enough to make the diagnosis in most cases!
So, how to treat scaly leg mites? The most used and effective method to eliminate scaly leg mites is to suffocate them using some of the products available on the market and then promote the growth of new scales.
Some of those products include Nettex Scaly Leg Remover, Scalex, Dergall, and Ivermectin. Most of these solutions will kill the nasty pests and help the chicken skin heal.
You can also use house products such as petroleum jelly, paraffin, vegetable, and coconut oil for less serious cases. However, for severe and moderate cases, giving 0.1 mg of Ivermectin per pound of body weight is suggested.
Here is a simple step-by-step instruction on how to apply these products to your chicken’s feet and legs.
Wash the chicken legs thoroughly using warm water with soap and let them soak for a short period.
Before applying products, wait for the feet to dry completely. You can use a paper towel, cloth, or a towel to dry them gently.
Place or dip the chicken feet in some of the abovementioned products, such as vegetable oil and Vaseline (not Ivermectin).
Apply the oil or jelly on their feet daily for at least ten days or even longer, depending on the severity. It takes around three weeks for the pests to go away completely.
Disinfect the perches and nesting boxes because mites often contaminate the area where chickens spend time.
Most people (including me) opt for Vaseline because it is less messy than oils, and considering its thick consistency, it stays on their feet for longer, so you do not have to apply it daily. With Vaseline, the duration of treatment is around two weeks or longer if necessary.
When using specialized products like Scalex or Dergall, please read the instructions before using them or consult a vet!
How to Use Ivermectin?
Paraffin or vegetable oil is usually very messy, especially because the chicken needs to walk around with their feet drenched in oil or jelly.
Ivermectin is a chemical dewormer that is administered either orally or applied on the skin, such as to the base of the chicken’s neck. The dosage depends on the bird’s weight, so be careful when dosing.
When using products such as chemical dewormers, it is important to be cautious because overuse of Ivermectin can cause the parasite to develop resistance, affecting its effectiveness.
1. Which Areas Do Scaly Leg Mites Attack?
Generally, scaly leg mites are mostly found on chicken legs and feet, as implied by the name. However, there are several reported cases where the mites infested the comb, wattles, necks, and on rare occasions, beaks. Basically, they attack the areas of chicken skin that are unfeathered.
Regarding their life cycle, they live between 10 and 14 days, and therefore, it is paramount that you start with the treatment the moment you notice some of the symptoms associated with scaly leg mites.
In addition to causing various health problems, these unwanted guests cause great discomfort and irritation to chickens.
2. What Happens If I Do Not Treat Scaly Leg Mites in Chickens?
Scaly leg mites are a serious health hazard for chickens, and if left untreated for a longer period, they can lead to death in extreme cases. However, in most cases, chicken keepers can notice the change in the chicken’s gait and the appearance of their feet, so it rarely leads to death.
If you do not treat the scaly leg mites, the chicken will experience pain, and its feet will become highly inflamed, resulting in lameness. Also, in severe cases, chickens can lose toes and cause deformities, which may not be reversible.
Therefore, it is vital to check your chickens very often for scaly leg mites and other parasites so you can start the treatment as soon as possible.
3. Can Scaly Leg Mites Affect Humans?
Considering these pests are very stubborn, many people ask whether the scaly leg mites can infest humans. The answer is no! The scaly leg mites will infest and thrive on various caged birds, wild birds, and poultry.
However, they cannot survive on humans, pets, and livestock. On the other hand, other mites can get into our hair and skin but not scaly leg mites.
Scaly leg mites in chickens are a serious health hazard that can cause various issues, including leg and foot deformities, lameness, inability to roost, uneven scales, and many others.
Luckily, it can easily be treated with products you can find in your house, such as vegetable oil, Vaseline, coconut oil, and paraffin oil. When using dewormers, such as Ivermectin, please consult a veterinarian!
Did your chicken ever get infested with scaly leg mites? If yes, please share your experience and how you treated it! If you have questions or want to comment, do not be shy and ask away!