Ick. The chickens had scaly leg mites earlier this year. Actually, I think only Michelle and Sandy had them; Stephanie looked good, although we treated her as well.
Scaly leg mites. I'm feeling itchy just thinking about them. The mites live under the scales on chickens' legs. The legs then get irritated and this irritation pushes up the scales, making the scales raise up rather than lying flat as in healthy legs. I think it might bother the chickens, too, since Michelle -- who seemed to have it the worst -- would scratch at one leg with the other leg.
I think this is Michelle in this picture:
We were leaving for vacation about a week after spotting the mites. Actually, we never saw the mites; they're too small for that. We just saw evidence of their existence. We wanted to hit the mites hard before leaving for vacation so that our chicken sitter didn't have to deal with them.
Here's another picture of gross chicken legs:
One treatment is to do the following once a week for several weeks. Since we wanted to really whack the mites out of existence quickly, we did this for several days in a row before leaving for vacation:
- Scrub the legs with warm water and a brush. We used warm water and a toothbrush.
- Dry the legs.
- Coat the legs with vegetable oil or petroleum jelly. We used oil once, but switched to petroleum jelly for the remaining applications.
- Clean the coop/run/foraging area.
- Apply mite deterrents, e.g., food safe diatemaceous earth to the coop/run/foraging area.
The way this works is that the oil/jelly suffocates the mites, which is pretty gross if I think about it so I don't think about it much. It did seem to work as they looked much better before we left for vacation and even more improved by the time we got back a week later.
Improvement can be slow, though, and it can take up to a year for the scales to grow back. That's not a problem for the chickens.
For comparison, I believe this is Stephanie in this picture; her legs never appeared affected, but it made sense to treat her as well:
The treatment was a problem for the chickens in that they didn't seem to care much for being snatched, having their feet scrubbed with a brush and then having them coated with petroleum jelly. It helped that we did it at night, after they'd put themselves to bed already. Chickens are dopey and slow when they're going to bed, asleep and getting up so it's a good time to snatch them for treatment, to move them, etc....basically, most any kind of handling.
The mites thrive in wood so many chicken keepers find that their wood coops are the source of the problem. This was not the case for us bc we have the plastic Omlet Eglu coop. I can't be sure, but I think the problem was either wood mulch and/or woody yard debris that ended up in the compost pile.
See, we got the chickens in fall, 2010. We let them roam the yard over winter. Sure, they crapped everywhere, but we weren't frolicking in the yard in our bare feet over winter anyway. Come spring, we confined them to a corner of the yard so that we could frolic in the yard in our bare feet. Their new area had wood mulch in it. Also, we decided to put the compost pile in the chickens's area so that a) they could enjoy rooting around in it and b) they would aerate it for us. The scaly leg mite business coincided with their new living quarters; that's why I think something in their newly confined environment (the wood) allowed them to get mites.
If you do have a wood coop, the suggestion is to thoroughly clean and treat the coop (which I did anyway, even though our coop isn't wood); remove and destroy any bedding, shavings, etc.; there are sprays you can use on the coop and/or birds; you can also sprinkle food safe diatemaceous earth around the coop/run/foraging area to help stave off mites.
- 3 Steps to Treating Scaly Leg Mites from My Snazzy Chicken Coop
- Scaly leg mites chickens (especially posts from "velvet_sparrow")from iVillage Garden Web
- Scaly Leg Mites and Parasitic Diseases from Miss. State Univ. Ext. Service
That's probably more than you ever wanted to know or see about scaly leg mites in chickens. You're welcome.