Poultry and Scaly/Scaley Leg

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Scaley Leg

What is it, and how does it happen? Scaley leg is an overgrowth of the scales of the legs, caused by irritation by a nasty burrowing mite. Local inflammation is caused and the body responds by growing more scales, this happens in a chaotic manner so scales overlap and are not lost in a normal sequence. The scales appear misshapen, dry, crusty, reddened and generally unattractive. Birds may peck at their legs in an attempt to get at the irritation and if scales are dislogded areas may bleed, sometimes they almost look like pork scratchings.

This is not a condition to leave untreated, the irritation makes birds miserable, and any lesions on feet and legs are open to infection. Infections in birds feet are very difficult to treat, blood supply is not good and healing very slow.

There are several treatment regimes which you can try, depending on your personal preferences.

Softening the legs up to knee joint in a warm solution of baby bath and gently scrubbing the legs with an old toothbruch will loosen some scales, then rub in a generous amount of Benzyl Benzoate. BB is available from horsey shops and also from your chemist, in humans it is used to treat scabies so you may get odd looks! Repeat after a week, and also rub in a lot of petroleum jelly, thsi helps to soften scales and can smother the mites. If scales come away leaving exposed raw skin I would treat those areas with anti-bacterial spray, Aloe vera gel is also excellent for promoting healthy tissue regrowth. If the bird is free ranging in muddy conditions I would recommend bringing it in to a clean cage to limit exposure to infection.

Another method employed is dipping affected legs in surgical spirit, thsi does kill the mites and cleanses inflamed areas, but is very drying and must be painful, I would suggest a follow up calming treatment of petroleum jelly or Aloe Vera gel.

Ivermectin,not licensed for poultry, is also effective at killing off the mites. It has an interesting side effect which I have noted. As it kills the mites they obviously become detached from the skin resulting in blood oozing out between the scales. This was quite alarming the first time I noticed it, it also made me realise how badly affected the bird was, even though he showed few symptoms.

Do not expect immediate visual improvement, it takes some time for new scales to grow, and in neglected cases even the new scales may appear mishapen. It is very rewarding when a big lump falls away and lovely new scales can be seen underneath, your birds will also be much happier and healthier. Imagine how it would feel if you had a constant severe itching and soreness in your feet, and could do nothing about it.

A bird challenged by mite attack requires a good diet, feed a layers ration high in protein as growing feathers and skin requires high protein uptake. A vitamin supplement such as Poultry tonic can help reduce stress levels and aid recovery.

I hope this guide is helpful, I try to recommend products that are inexpensive and easy to obtain, at least in the UK. I personally find it unacceptable that so many birds at auctions and on public display at farm parks have this problem when it is relatievely easy to treat.

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