Above: scaly leg mites can be more difficult to spot in feather-legged breeds like Brahmas.
Scaly leg mites are parasites that lodge and reproduce underneath the scales on chickens’ legs. This results in a typical look of uneven, crusty, deformed scales, and can lead to impaired walking, infection, loss of toes and, in extreme cases, even death.
Some of our chickens are Brahmas or Brahma crosses, which means they have feathered legs, and so an infestation of scaly leg mites is less easily visible. When I noticed that our alpha rooster, a handsome and docile Black Brahma, is afflicted, his condition was already pretty advanced, and I knew I have to begin treatment immediately.
Most home treatment options for scaly leg mites suggest dipping the bird’s legs in mineral oil or petroleum, and then slathering them in Vaseline. The goal of this is to smother the mites. The treatment is then repeated after an interval of a week or two, to take care of the nits that might have hatched in the meantime.
It struck me, while reading this, that this kind of treatment is similar to combating head lice (which, after all, are a lot like mites in many ways). I have gone through purgatory two years ago, when my daughters had a persistent infestation of lice, and I still had a bottle and a half of anti-lice spray sitting under my bathroom sink. The active ingredient of it is dimethicone. In a stroke of inspiration, I decided to try it on my Black Brahma, figuring that if it’s safe to use on children’s scalps, it should be alright for chicken feet.
Unlike dipping, which involves capturing the chicken (not very convenient with a large rooster – Brahmas are among the heavier breeds), spraying can be done quickly and efficiently once the flock has gone up to roost. I sprayed my Brahma at twilight, carefully covering every spot of his feet and legs.
A few days later, I was happy to see that the awful dead grey scales are beginning to fall off. I’ve noticed another chicken who is suffering from this condition, and I’m going to treat her in the same way. I’m really pleased to have discovered this simple, quick, no-mess way of treating scaly leg mites, and will keep it in my arsenal of chicken home remedies.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects onher blog. Read all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here.
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