Scaly Leg and chicken health

We’ve often found that chickens come to us with scaly leg mite infestation. Once in the flock it can spread, so the whole flock may have to be treated. Some chicken-keepers treat their chickens preventatively twice a year, regardless of symptoms. Chickens afflicted with scaly leg mite, which lives underneath the leg scales, can have any level of symptoms between raised scales and lost toes. In between these two extremes is a crustiness around the legs and toes, and of course this is very uncomfortable for the chicken. There are two types of treatment, on a simple level you can exclude air from the mites and suffocate them using a coating of Vaseline or similar ointment. This is quite difficult to do when the scales are raised as you need to get underneath them. The method we use is to kill the mites using Benzyl Benzoate liquid (available from independent pharmacies) painted on with an old paintbrush. Other proprietary treatments are available. One old-fashioned method is to dip the feet in surgical spirit, but I think this stings quite a lot and the chickens don’t like it. In any case, the chickens need to be treated about once a week for a month for any treatment to be effective – you may not see results at once as obviously the scales need to heal and in some cases this will not be visible until the next moult. Lost toes will not grow back and clearly the infection should not be allowed to get to this stage – but if you acquire a chicken that is badly affected they can usually manage to live a full life without one or more toes.

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