To check for bugs on your flock, simply hang the hen upside-down by her feet, let her wings naturally fall open and start the inspection. She will not flap around but relax if you are holding her feet correctly with one hand.
These bugs can cause an array of symptoms so not every case of them will be exactly the same. The quiet invaders might be causing your hens to dust bath a bit more often than normal, or their behaviour starts to change. But then there is one very obvious infestation that anyone can see if time is taken to visually inspect the flock...Scaly Leg Mites.
What are Scaly Leg Mites?
Scaly Leg mites are so tiny that they are not visible to the human eye. These parasites live underneath the scales on chicken's legs and feet, burrowing in between the scales, where they tunnel through to the tissue for a meal and leave their droppings in there. The result will be a thick, crusty or scabby look to the legs and feet.
The longer the mites are left on the poultry the more pain and damage they do to the hen.
They spread from bird to bird, so if only one is treated in a flock the infestation will not be treated. ALL must be treated.
If left untreated it can result in discomfort, pain, lameness, deformities, and loss of toes.
Egg laying may cease, and in the worse cases, death.
Leg Mites are so easy to fix
There's no need to send your flock off to the RSPCA or to cull them if they have a leg mite infection.
It's spa treatment time!
Do hen's flap about when given a bath? Not at all, in fact chickens love a lukewarm soak.
I haven't met a hen yet who doesn't like to be washed. The main rule is to keep your hand on her while at each cleaning station, preferably around her wings. They enjoy the comfort of being in water especially with any pain they have been in.
Bathing is only one part. The flock also need to be dusted with either Diotomaceous Earth (DE) or other commercial dusters such as Pestene. The whole body is important to treat.
I recently treated a flock of three hens whose legs had become thick, discoloured and losing their natural leg scales due to leg mites. These gorgeous hens had just started their laying, by the size of their combs, but had temporarily ceased to lay because their owner did not know that they had a health problem. Their legs had become so bad that blood could be seen in between the cracks where the mites had burrowed into. The pain must have been excruciating.
Coop Care is essential
Its not just your flock that needs the extra special care but also their shedding.
If mites and lice are on your hens, then they are also inside your coop hiding in the layer boxes, flooring and any little crack they can fit into. So when cleaning your chickens, the coop needs a clean out too.
The flock cannot return to their coop or run until it has been cleaned or the infestation will start all over again.
- When removing any bedding straw, place into a bin liner for the general waste or to be burnt.
Do not place old straw in the compost as this may serve to breed the infestation further.
- Sweep and scrub the coop clean.
- Clean out all feeders and waterers, thoroughly. Allow to dry in the sun before refilling.
TIP: Clean UNDERNEATH all feeders. Many bugs can harbour there.
- Scrape and scrub the perches down with warm water and apple cider vinegar.
- If you have an earthen or sand floor to the coop/run, scrape the top layer of soil away, bagging it for general waste.
- Dust the coop, perimeter and all cracks and gaps with Diotomaceous Earth (DE) to kill any insect or bug colonies.
- Replace flooring and straw in perches.
What you will need:
- 2 Buckets = 1 x lukewarm water with mild detergent, 1 x lukewarm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar
- Towels, for table and drying
- Toothbrush or nail brush
- Olive oil (or Vegetable/Sunflower oil)
- Petroleum Jelly (e.g. Vaseline)
- Temporary cage or pet tent
- Straw for coop flooring (temporary amount)
Surprisingly simple and free of any nasty chemicals.
Two (2) person job.
1. Inspect legs first, then soak legs in lukewarm water with a very mild detergent.
2. Have a helper hold the hen. Let her relax before starting.
3. Scrub legs, feet and claws gently but thoroughly to dislodge any unwelcome visitors.
4. Pat dry.
5. Place hen into the rinse water: lukewarm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
6. Pat dry.
7. Rub oil all over legs and feet (olive, vegetable, sunflower, linseed or mineral oil) to suffocate the mites.
8. Wipe off oil and rub petroleum jelly all over legs and feet.
9. Place hens in a temporary cage or pet tent while coop is thoroughly cleaned before they can go back.
10. Clean washing water for every chicken to prevent cross-contamination.
Even if you do not usually use straw for the flooring in your coop, use it temporarily due to the application of Vaseline on their legs. You do not want too much grit getting stuck to their legs right now. At the end of the treatment, remove the straw, placing in general waste inside a bin liner.
Petroleum Jelly Reapplication
The Vaseline will need to be applied several times a week for the next week or until their legs return to normal.
It may take several months for most cases to heal properly. Persistence and coop care will pay off.
Remember to dust your flock and coop once a month - have holistic approach.
Severe cases of scaly leg mite may require veterinarian care.
If in doubt about prolonged recovery time, please call your local vet.
It really is such a simple treatment that will improve your chickens' health and comfort.
If you would like assistance in treating your poultry for scaly leg mites, please give me call to make a booking today.