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Scaly Leg Mites | Natural Treatment for Chickens

Here's a simple, effective, natural treatment for scaly leg mites on backyard chickens.

Mites come in all shapes and sizes. Some feed on the host's blood, others, like scaly leg mites, burrow up under the scales on a chicken's legs.  

Like other types of mites, scaly leg mites can be successfully treating in a natural way that won't be harmful to your chickens.

Scaly Leg Mites  | Natural Treatment for Chickens

The scales on the legs of healthy chickens are smooth and lie flat. If you notice the scales on your chicken's legs starting to peel up, flake, or look dry, rough, crusty and uneven, she could be suffering from scaly leg mites. 

Eventually thick white scabs will begin to form on the legs.

What are Scaly Leg Mites

Scaly leg mites are a type of external parasite that can bother chickens by burrowing up under the scales on their legs and feet, causing the scales to become crusty and lift up instead of laying flat and smooth.

They are a burrowing insect, mainly found on the legs and feet of a chicken, but can also be found on the comb or wattles.

Recognizing the Signs of Scaly Leg Mites

Scaly leg mites are too small to see with the naked eye, so the raised leg scales on your chickens will likely be your first visual clue.

Risk Factors for Scaly Leg Mites

Risk Factors for scaly leg mites include advanced age, stress, overcrowding, damp,wet or dirty living conditions, or contact with wild birds.

The feathered legged breeds of chickens are more susceptible to scaly leg mites. These include:

  • Brahma
  • Cochin
  • Faverolle
  • Marans
  • Silkie

Dangers of Scaly Leg Mites

Initially if your chicken contracts scaly leg mites, they will likely merely cause discomfort to the bird.

But if the scaly leg mites are not treated and instead allowed to fester,  they can cause the chicken be in overall poor health (and therefore susceptible to other issues).

Other Symptoms of Scaly Leg Mites include:

  • difficulty walking
  • deformed feet
  • lameness 
  • inability to roost
  • death, in extreme cases

If you notice evidence of leg mites, there are various ways to get rid of them naturally.

Scaly leg mites can spread quickly from hen to hen, so it's best to treat them all if you notice one having issues.

Natural Treatment for Scaly Leg Mites

  • Soak the legs and feet in warm water and a mild dish soap, then rise and dry them off.
  • Using an old toothbrush, gently scrub the afflicted hen's legs and feet with white vinegar, garlic juice or Neem Oil.  

These are all natural, non-toxic substances and will help to smother the mites and suffocate them. 
  • Repeat the treatment every other day or so, until the old scales fall off and nice new, shiny, smooth scales regrow. This can take a matter of weeks to several months for severe cases.

It's a good idea to clean out your coop at the same time, since the mites can burrow down into the floor and like to live in damp conditions.

If you can't find garlic juice you can make your own:

Homemade Garlic Juice

6 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced 
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil 
2 cup waters

  • Heat water in a saucepan until bubbles just start to form around the edges. Add the garlic and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely. 
  • Strain out the garlic and whisk the vegetable oil into the strained liquid.
  • Pour your garlic juice into a squirt bottle.

After cleaning out the old litter, I recommend spraying the coop walls and floor down with white vinegar or my Orange Peel Coop Cleaner spray, then sprinkling food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) liberally on the floor and in the nesting boxes.

DE helps kill all kinds of insects and parasites without harm to you or your chickens.


Here are a couple of things that you should NOT use to treat scaly leg mites:

  • DO NOT use alcohol, gasoline, kerosene, turpentine or any other potentially toxic substance on your chickens' legs. 
  • DO NOT use petroleum jelly or Vaseline on your chickens legs.
  • DO NOT dose your chickens with Ivermectin. It's dangerous, not approved for use in poultry, and not healthy for the hens. 

Natural treatment works! I have heard from many readers over the years who tell me that they have used the natural remedies I recommend with great results.

Prevention of Scaly Leg Mites

As with nearly everything relating to chicken (or human) health, prevention is your best bet. There are a couple of ways to prevent scaly leg mites in your chicken flock:

  • Provide a dust bath area for your flock filled with dirt or sand, DE and some insect-repelling herbs such as lavender, lemon grass or thyme. Normally, providing a clean, dry environment and dust bath area will keep parasites at bay.
  • Consider putting down some vinyl flooring on the floor of your coop to make cleaning easier and to prevent mites from moving in and  burrowing into the wood. 
  • Periodically check the nesting boxes and remove and replace the nesting material.
  • Limit exposure to rodents and wild birds.
  • Keep the coop and run area as clean as possible.
  • Reduce stress in your flock.

For more information on treating other kinds of poultry mites and lice naturally, read HERE.

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