Scaly Legs – Backyard Chickens’ Health and Care

Illnesses in chickens

What is Scaly Legs?

Scaly leg is a common skin condition that affects chickens, caused by parasitic mites. It is characterised by a thickening of the scales on the legs and feet, and can cause discomfort and pain for affected birds. Scaly leg is a treatable condition, and early intervention is essential for successful treatment. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of scaly leg in chickens.

Scaly Legs Symptoms

The main symptom of scaly leg is some of the scales on the chicken’s leg become raised off the surface and can almost resemble extra claws. As the condition progresses, the legs and feet may become swollen, and affected hens may have difficulty walking or standing.

Scaly Legs Causes

Scaly leg is caused by parasitic mites that burrow under the scales on the legs and feet of chickens. The mites feed on the skin and tissue, causing irritation and inflammation. Poor hygiene and overcrowded living conditions can increase the risk of infestation.

Scaly Legs Diagnosis

Diagnosing scaly leg is relatively straightforward, as the characteristic raised and scaly scales are easily visible. However, it is essential to differentiate scaly leg from other similar conditions, such as avian pox or fowlpox. A veterinarian may perform a physical exam to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes.

Scaly Legs Treatment

Treatment for scaly leg typically involves the use of topical medications to kill the mites and soothe the affected skin. Veterinarians may recommend treatments containing natural oils or other safe ingredients, such as petroleum jelly or mineral oil. In more severe cases, oral medications may be necessary. It is important to follow the recommended treatment regimen and to maintain good hygiene practices to prevent reinfection. If trying to treat at home, we suggest putting the hen in warm water for a number of minutes to soften the legs, then use a toothbrush to clean in and around the lifted scales. Once that’s done, smother the legs in vaseline. Do this at least once a day for a week and assess whether you need to keep going or visit a vet for further treatment.

Scaly Legs Prevention

Good hygiene practices are essential for preventing scaly leg in chickens. This may include regular cleaning and disinfection of the coop and equipment, as well as regular inspections of your flock for signs of infestation. Keeping the coop and run dry and well-ventilated can also help reduce the risk of mite infestations. Additionally, regular dust baths can help keep mites at bay and maintain healthy skin.


Scaly leg is a treatable condition that affects many chickens. Early detection, proper diagnosis, and prompt treatment are essential for preventing the spread of infestation and reducing the risk of long-term complications. Regular monitoring, good hygiene practices, and proper nutrition can help prevent the spread of mites and maintain healthy, scaly-free legs for chickens.

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