Scaly Leg Mite is an infestation on your hen’s legs
What causes Scaly Leg Mites?
A small parasitic mite known as Cnemidocoptes Mutans. Even the name of this nasty critter is enough to make you itchy. They have a life cycle of 14-21 days and spend their entire burrowing (into hens legs if they can), eating their skin, laying eggs and leaving their droppings behind. They can start burrowing on the face, vent and very commonly, the legs.
How do they get it?
When hens roam on bare earth & damp ground. So wet weather is a time to watch out for these itchy parasites.
It lives in the ground or sometimes the floor of the hen house in damp conditions. It then burrows under the scales of the bird’s legs or feet.
It can be brought in by new hens that were infected but not yet visible.
It’s highly contagious, as they can move from leg to leg. Older birds are more susceptible.
What are the Symptoms?
The legs appear to swell because of the build up of mites at the base of the scales.
The scales seem to be peeling up, flaking or look rough & uneven.
If left too long, the hen will show signs of being uncomfortable, go off egg laying, ruffled feathers, not moving around much.
The scaly leg mite can travel from bird to bird so ideally you’ll treat them all as one of those little mites could have already latched onto another in your flock. If you don’t have time to do that, just treat the hen with obvious scaly leg mite and any that look like they may be getting it. Then, keep a close eye on your other hens gorgeous legs, looking for any signs of those nasty mites burrowing into their legs.
Depending on how severe the scaly leg mite is, it could resolve in a few days or a couple of weeks.
1. 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 may only need to do this once but if you notice her legs getting dirty (most likely on wet days), then you need to wash every time before you apply treatment. Towel dry her legs.
Every 1 to 2 days, depending how long the treatment stays on her legs:
2. Saturate a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide & wipe over both her legs. This disinfects the leg and removes any last remnants of dirt. If you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide you can skip this step until you can get some. Best to start doing something right now!
3. Two options for what to put on her legs. Both will smother & kill the mite:
a. Dip her legs into a bowl of cooking oil – olive oil or some other cooking oil. Make sure if fully covers both her legs.
b. My favourite is Vaseline. It’s a much thicker consistency so stays on longer and really suffocates the mites. You can also add extra goodies to the Vaseline if you want to – lavender, eucalyptus, essential oil (couple of drops only).
For 3 weeks:
4. Because of the life cycle of the scaly leg mite, as a precaution, keep the Vaseline or oil on your hens legs for 3 weeks. In that way, any larvae that hatches in the meantime doesn’t stand a chance. No reinfestation!
This is the time to look at how dry and clean your hen area is. Give it a good clean and make sure they can access dry areas.
Use Diatamaceous Earth (DE) liberally on their hen roosts, nesting boxes, floor and you can dust them with it too (this keeps all the other lice & mites away too). Check out the post on DE for more information about how this is a ‘must have’ for hens.
Consider using Ivermectin (lice, mite & worming) at 6 monthly intervals. It’s dropped onto the back of their neck. While I prefer natural methods for treating hens, sometimes, a chemical is called for, if infestation is too overwhelming for your hens and for you!