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Scaly Leg Mites

A healthy chicken Feet (left) and Infected Feet (Right)

Over a past few weeks, one of our chicken became lame and could not feed well. We’d seen scales over her legs from very early when she was still a small chick but as time passed by her legs started become a lot scalier. We thought this would subside but symptoms started getting worse and she was struggling to move. She clearly had problem with her foot and now she was not feeding herself well and losing weight. Initially we thought it was more of a fungus related problem but with few research we diagnosed it was Leg Mites Infestation. Other names included Knemidocoptiasis and Cutaneous Knemidokoptosis.


Scaly leg mites (Knemidocoptes mutans) are a relatively common ectoparasite found in adult backyard chickens, turkeys, and pheasants worldwide. These mites are extremely tiny (not visible to the naked eye) and will spend their entire lives (10 to 14 days) burrowing tunnels underneath the cornified epidermis of the chicken’s skin. K. mutans are normally found on the chicken’s legs and top of their feet, but on occasion may invade the comb, wattles, neck and/or


The tunneling action of the mites is damaging to the chicken’s skin tissue, resulting in hyperkeratotic lesions which appear as thickened, scaly skin, raised non-uniform scales, white crusting and seepage of tissue fluid. The presence of the mites is also very irritating and painful for the bird. Left untreated, it can lead to necrosis of the toes, lameness, and deformation of the legs and feet. Chickens infested with scaly leg mites have an increased risk of developing secondary bacterial infections due to the destruction of the skin barrier which if intact would help protect them invasion with harmful pathogens


We’d already seen that there were at least five chicken suffering from the condition; one of them quite severe and some of them in various level of severity. We researched a few treatment methods and found the following recommendations (Source: Poultry DVM)



Paraffin oil, Coconut oil, Shea butter, or petroleum jelly (Vaseline)

Apply over the bird's feet and legs.


Applied topically or given orally at 0.2 mg/kg, once every two weeks. Two weeks after the first treatment, the scales should start sloughing off. 


Pour-on or injectable forms are both effective, and available in 0.5% and 1% preparations.

Ectoblaster spray

Topical application to damaged areas of the skin.


After a careful review and the availability of the resources, we decided we would go after a rather local method which included a mixture of Mustard Oil and Turmeric. We chose mustard oil because it was readily available and turmeric has traditionally been known for its antimicrobial characteristics.

  • Catch the bird(s) with symptoms.

  • Dip both of its feet (Remember to treat both the legs even if only a leg seems problematic) in lukewarm water for around 5-10 minutes. After the scales become softer, pick up the scales manually to expose the healthy tissues inside.

  • Apply thoroughly the mixture of mustard oil and turmeric.

  • Repeat the process for at least a week.

Note:  If the infestation is severe, it takes a lot of time and labor to soften the hard scales. So on the first day of treatment you may just want to pick up the scales possible, expose some healthy tissues and apply the oil-turmeric paste thoroughly. The next day, the oil moisturizes the scales and softer scales become easier to remove.


It has been around the week we started the treatment for our most affected chicken. The results have been quite satisfactory and the once lame chicken has now started walking properly, scratches and searches it feed and goes on together well in the flock.


Explained above are the local methods, particularly in Nepal and probably its neighboring countries, that are used to treat different external conditions in livestock and birds. We have not reviewed the scientific aspect of this treatment procedure. While the method has worked well for us, it is up to the reader to decide what type of treatment procedure he/she decides to follow. Also, we have a small farm with a relatively small flock of around a dozen chicken and half a dozen goats, we do not know if this will be feasible to a large commercial flock.   

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