Why are my chickens’ legs scaly?

Now that our lovely girls are not paddling around in so much mud, it is a good opportunity to check their legs. A healthy leg should have smooth scales with no raised areas. If you are seeing scales lifting or thickened areas, your hen may have Scaly Leg…

This is a condition caused by a mite called ‘Knemidocoptes Mutans’ which burrows under the skin on a bird’s legs to feed on the keratin. The tunnelling irritates with leg scales becoming thickened, as the keratin seeps from the leg tissue, and eventually becoming encrusted and lifting away from the leg. The legs will appear lumpy with large gaps visible between the individual scales.

Scaly leg mites can spread from bird to bird in your flock, so, if one of your hens has developed Scaly Leg, most likely the rest will also be infected. This means all hens should be treated.

This is generally not considered a painful condition but can cause discomfort. The good news is that it is easy to treat.

Symptoms and signs to look out for:

  • The mites burrow under the scales on legs and cause extreme irritation feeding on tissue secretions
  • Initially scales lift if untreated causing crusting, swelling, thickening, bleeding and lameness if severe
  • Mites are spread by direct contact with infected birds


  • A thick layer of Vaseline applied daily for a week causes mites to suffocate.
  • Swarfega acts similarly and can assist in removing crusty scales revealing clean, healthy tissue underneath.
  • Daily bathing in diluted mild shampoo or antiseptic allows scales to soften and loosen enabling gentle removal with a toothbrush (repeat weekly).
  • Can use Ivermectin 1% spot on.
  • While you are checking the legs make sure that any leg rings you have fitted are not too tight or damaged.

For more information on Scaly leg, and what causes it, check out our hen health problems page here. Please note, that these home remedies are not intended to offer a cure or replace veterinary treatment, but may alleviate symptoms where no professional support is easily available. The suggestions are based on experience gained with our own hens.

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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