How To Remove Scaly Leg Mites

Our chickens are quite healthy girls, but one ailment that they catch on and off are scaly leg mites.  These little beasties burrow underneath the scales on the legs of the hens, which cause discomfort, irritation and some pain.  If left untreated for a long time, it can cause the chook to go lame.

We find that it is best to treat all the hens at the same time, because the mite can travel from bird to bird.

Yesterday, as part of their normal fortnightly health check, Ben helped me to treat our girls.
Treatment is very easy.  Firstly, distract the girls with some food, then one by one do the following;
With warm soapy water, gently remove all the dirt from their legs with a nail brush.  This softens any crusty scales.  Gentle is the operative word, because you are removing the dirt and crusty bits, not their leg scales.  
You will note in the picture above that the top of the talons are a little pink in colour.  This is because this particular chicken was treated last week as well, and the mite has dropped off, along with the infected leg scales.  New scales will grow back in a few weeks.

Once the legs are clean, holding the chook firmly, we dunk each leg into olive oil that we store in a 2 litre (2qt) icecream container.  Ben holds the container so that the hen doesn’t kick it over. Once the legs are coated, we let the excess drip off, then release the chook into the chicken run.  
We use this routine if any one of the girls gets infected, by treating the entire flock;

  • Week One – clean and apply treatment 
  • Week Two – treatment only 
  • Week Three – treatment only 
  • Week Four – treatment only 
  • Week Eight – treatment only 
  • Week Twelve – treatment only
If their legs get really dirty, we repeat the clean and treatment step.  Usually by about week three their legs look much better, and the leg scales grow back much healthier.  Keep going with the treatment through to week twelve to ensure that re-infection does not occur.
I have read many other types of treatment for this mite, like using WD40, Frontline for dogs, Kerosene, Sump oil, but that all of these contain toxins, which would harm the hen and pass through to the eggs.  Being one for natural treatments, I find that soapy water and olive oil (any kind of cooking oil will do) works the best.  
No fuss or trouble, and it only took us twenty minutes to treat our flock of eight hens.
Healthy chooks are happy chooks, and lay wholesome eggs.  
Does anyone else have any natural method to get rid of scaly leg mite in their flock?

For more backyard chicken advice and health problems and solutions, check out my new eBook – The Way of The Chicken – A Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens.


  1. Rhonda D says

    Wish I had read your post first, the first thing I googled said to dip their legs in gasoline, dry then apply vaseline.. poor things ran away screaming, their legs were red!! I managed to pop them all back into the coop for the night but theyre not happy roosting.. will try the olive oil treatment tomorrow instead, sounds way gentler and just as effective. Thanks!

  2. says

    Hi Gavin
    We have recently discovered one of our new bantums has got scaly leg so we did a bit of research and decided on parafin as its what we had at the time and some natural moisturiser so we have been swapping between washing and bathing her feet, dunking them in parafin and moisturising her for just over a week now and her feet have improved but today I noticed her stumbling about and wobbling everywhere as if her feet and legs are really sore, so I brought her inside and stood her in a batch of warm water and noticed that her body is all crusty and yellow all over her breast and under her wings a little. Do you think this could be to do with the mites or is that from the treatments we’ve given her? (We will be using the oil method you have suggested above from now on)

    • Gavin Webber says

      Hard to tell Hydi if your treatment has caused those other symptoms. As paraffin is a mineral oil that is used in products like baby oil, sorbolene, and other body care products, it may not have been that. Having said that though, a natural vegetable oil is less likely to do harm if absorbed or digested.


      • says

        Thanks for your response, I think I will try the oil method from now on just to be safe. What do you think could be causing her to stumble about. As for her scabby body, It almost looks like the scaly leg has spread apart from she obviously doesn’t have scales on her body, it could be residue from the moisturiser that has got in her feathers and completely unrelated but I just don’t know.

      • Gavin Webber says

        It may be Hydi. Have you checked the hen over for roost mites, which is another common parasite. They look like little black dots that move when observed. They are blood suckers, and I have to douse my chooks with DE to ensure that they are clean. The blood pidgeon bring them in when they try and steal the chook food.

  3. Jo Dumergue says

    I have 7 hens (purchased at a poultry auction as ex-battery hens). These are lovely girls, pure Isa Browns and were $1 each – and are still laying and must be at least 5 years old now! I will treat their leg mites with warm soapy water & olive oil spray (much easier to get an all over cover).

    When I farmed at Stroud, NSW, we were told by the elder farmers to always paint the roost and nesting boxes with lime wash (I remember this as a kid in Melbourne, when people used to paint their paling fences and it was called White Wash).

    Not sure if you use ordinary garden or builders lime mixed with water but either should work.

    Also, regularly change the straw/wood shavings/shredded paper in each nesting box and vacuum out the ‘dust’ because this would contain mite eggs I’m sure.

  4. Susan says

    Just purchased three hens, all having scaly leg mite, one worse than others, Our original hens didn’t have it, so we are going to treat them as well.. We scrubbed the legs in soapy water first then used a mixture of tea tree oil & olive oil, check the results in a couple of days then dose again… Hopefully will help? Not sure if I need to clean there house?

    • Gavin Webber says

      It will take about 2 weeks before you see real results. Don’t forget to keep the treatment going, to prevent the mites from reestablishing.

  5. Paul Salter says

    Hi Gavin , we have a flock of 13 chickens and 1 cockerel. We had tried many things (including WD40 etc.) Nothing had worked. We are now using your method of vegetable oil and treating every chicken every week. After 4 goes , we are now seeing a big improvement. Many thanks and we will be sure to watch for other tips. :-)

    • Gavin Webber says

      No problems Paul. Glad it is working for you. Hope your feathered girls enjoy their mite free legs!

  6. Lenneke says

    Hi. Quick tip for ease of applying, use a spray oil. This way you can hold the chook upside down by the legs and spray with your other hand.

  7. Mike says

    You shouldn’t use Vaseline, it is a petroleum product. Just use vegetable oil… it’s not expensive unless your using extra virgin olive oil.

  8. G Grixti says

    Hi…before reading these posts I rang my local vet nurse…she told me to dunk each hens legs in sump oil…which I did last night!!!! Now my hens are black half way up there bodies..have I done the wrong thing and what should I do now…I like the idea of vegetable oil much better, or is it too late for that.
    She told me to paint their perches with sump oil too. I havent done that yet. Help please.

    • Gavin Webber says

      Hi G Grixti,

      I don’t know what veg collage this quack went to, but sump oil is the last thing I would use. Olive oil works find, as they suffocate the mites just as well. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) works too, but lots of straw sticks to it.

      Don’t think its too late, just wipe off the sump oil, and use olive oil instead.


      • G Grixti says

        Thanks Gav – I will wash off the sump oil as best I can today…and proceed with olive oil…so much for the educated experts. Thanks again

  9. Anonymous says

    Hi Gavin my name is Sue I grew up with having chickens not only for eggs but for meat to we never had any scale mite so this is new for me the chickens weir given to me when my dad had to go in to a nursing home last year aged 90 thay have been fine till now so what have I done rong ? after all this time? would it be the heat that we been having that courest it? thank you

    • says

      Hi Sue. You have done nothing wrong. Leg mites can be passed to your hens by sparrows and pigeons which are usually infested in the things. If they visit your chooks, then that is how it probably got passed on.

      Gav x

  10. says

    Just bought a new Black Silky and realised when I got her home that her feet were not right. I looked it all up and can now see she has it really bad and her feet are nearly deformed, she even stands like a flamingo on one leg. I was offered my money back from the seller but don’t have the heart to give her back so Im trying to treat her. Soapy water and oil with tea tree in at the moment and just soaking no scrubbing as they are way to scaly and I don’t want to cause any pain. The house and run have been covered already with Diatomaceous Earth and I have renewed today. I am fairly new to chickens and did not realise until she had spent the night with my other four! So I guess I will have to treat them all now.

  11. says

    I have been powdering their feet and legs with diatomaceous earth after spraying with Manna Pro’s mite spray, with is nontoxic.

  12. says

    I asked for, and got, a 20litre drum of used cooking oil from the local takeaway and use it in the same way.
    I think we need to use what we can easily get, bearing in mind the cost to us and the chook as well.


  13. says

    I’ve never had to deal with scaly leg mites either, but I have heard about the olive oil treatment. The soapy water seems very practical as well. Where are they coming from? Is there a way to prevent them?

    • says

      Hi Dawn. My flock caught them from one of my Leghorn hens who at the time was carrying it. I didn’t know about scaly leg mite back then, and if I did, I would have been on to it straight away. Treatment of the hens, and keeping their house clean is the only way to prevent further attacks, from experience.

  14. says

    Gav, when I went to a Keeping Backyard Chicken talk recently, there was a lot of talk about Neem Oil. At this stage we haven’t needed to worry about this but it is always in the back of my mind.

  15. Sue Ballinger says

    I enjoyed reading you blog. I also am organic and cant stand the idea of all the toxic treatments out there. After buying a treatment for the leg mites that was said to have been made from chrysanthamums, I then read the fine print and was scared to put it on my girls. I promptly got out the veg oil and dipped the 1 girl with the mites. I will add tea tre oil to the veg oil and do all 9 girls tonight when they are in the coop. I cleaned the coop out this am, but want to try the lime in their house. Life is a learning curve! LOL
    Sue B.
    San Jose CA.


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