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Learning Centre

Expert tips and tricks for backyard chicken keeping

Scaly Leg Mites

Chicken health, Pests

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.

Other signs:

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

Scaly Leg mites are brought to your flock from wild birds and rodents, then onto your chicken’s scales on their feet. Here, the mites feed and also leave droppings.

The Scaly Leg Mite lays eggs, typically under the scales and tissues of bird legs such as the chicken. It’s the very place where these mites thrive. These eggs are laid by female mites and take about two weeks to hatch where they start out as larvae. After a few numbers of moulting, they become nymphs. And with a few more moulting, they become adults.


These are generally too small to be seen with the naked eye but will make your chicken’s legs appear scabby and crusty. If this is left untreated, it will spread to the rest of the flock and cause them great discomfort.

Once the Scaly Leg Mites crawl in between the scales of a chicken’s legs, they burrow themselves deeper, eating their way through the tissues underneath while slowly tunneling their way around. The life cycle for the scaly leg mites begins. Soon they start laying their eggs.

As these mites burrow and leave behind secretions. This along with their feeding irritate the tissues where these mites live. These, in turn, cause excessive growth of scales. These scaly lesions look crusty and scabby with whitish growths wherever they are infected.


To treat, give your chickens a nice soak in a tub of lukewarm water, and gently clean them. A soft toothbrush helps here. After they’ve dried off, dust their entire body with some pestene powder or natural diatomaceous earth.

How to directly treat scaly leg mite naturally:

  1. Soak the feet and legs of the bird in warm water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Scrub the feet and legs very gently with a soft toothbrush to remove dead skin and crusty build-up.
  3. Dry the feet and legs.
  4. Apply a small amount of Natural Scaly Leg Balm, Barrier Butter, Aristopet Scaly Leg Treatment, or Natural Mite & Lice Spray
  5. Repeat treatment every 2 days until symptoms have ceased. This is important to prevent reinfection.

You should treat all of the birds in your flock initially. After the first treatment, repeated treatment can be limited to birds continuing to display symptoms of leg mites.

New scales may take some time to grow back, but no lasting damage should be done to the well-being of your chooks. It is worth noting that damaged scales need to be shed in the same way that feathers are moulted allowing regrowth. This takes time and the legs will look abnormal long after the mites have been killed. Do not be tempted to pick off any damaged scales as the legs may bleed.

It’s not enough to treat the chicken legs and feet of the Scaly Leg Mites. These parasites do come back with a vengeance.As a monthly preventative, I also coat each chooks legs with our scaly balm. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use spray oil or vasoline.

It’s smart to treat the coop where they sleep and when possible, their run area. You should treat the surrounding area and the coop with disinfectant, natural coop cleaner, or coopex.

Doing routine coop disinfection will help keep the mites off of your birds or at least minimize their effects.

Diatomaeous Earth, Nest Blend, or Pestene Powder through the nest boxes also works wonders.


Coop care is essential. If left untreated, mites can cause death, so please don’t ignore them!

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