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Common skin diseases in poultry

External parasites are amongst the most common causes of skin disease in poultry. There are several different types of parasites, although many of these will cause similar symptoms in your flock. Determining which parasite is responsible is imperative to deciding on the correct course of treatment.

Red mite

Red mite can be a persistent problem to poultry keepers, and one that should be taken seriously, as the mites themselves can be carriers of diseases such as Newcastle disease, fowl cholera, avian diphtheria or fowl pox.  They are visible with the naked eye, but are seldom seen as they keep to the crevices of the coop and appear only when chickens are roosting.  It is best to act preventatively against red mites as opposed to treating the problem when it arises as they are very persistent and can survive for long periods of time in the environment without food, i.e. the chicken’s blood.  The inside of the coop should be as smooth as possible, and the perches removable so you can thoroughly clean the insides. Treat the inside with whitewash or fruit-tree carbolineum but before introducing the chickens back into the house make sure it does not smell of these products as the fumes can be toxic.  There are also preventative treatments available for the chickens themselves – consult your vet for more information.  

Common Fowl Louse

Common Fowl Louse is a common disease amongst poultry. Lice infestation can cause itching and scratching and may lead the birds to peck at themselves causing bald patches.  There are many different products that are effective in combating lice; however a follow-up treatment is always required to fully eradicate them.  The lice often deposit eggs around the cloaca and in the tufts of crested poultry such as the Dutch crested fowl. 

Northern Fowl Mite

The northern fowl mite can be transmitted by red mites. They reside in the hair follicles and are hard to get rid off.  Infestation causes deterioration of the feathers, and gives the feathers the appearance of having been being chewed. Again, the solution to this problem is best used as a preventative measure.  The chickens should be moved and housed elsewhere and the henhouse should be thoroughly cleaned with a solution of fruit-tree carbolineum.  Furthermore, the hens themselves need to be treated, this can be done by mixing ten parts of methylated spirits, one part camphorated spirit and a little bit of cooking oil.  The tails and feathers of the birds need to be thoroughly soaked in this solution, and the birds should be treated every week until the mite has been eradicated.  As always, do not put the chickens back in the coop until there is no lingering smell of carbolineum.  


Fleas can also bother chickens, resulting in itchiness, bald patches, and even weight loss. Fleas are visible to the naked eye and so can be readily distinguished from the northern fowl mite which cannot be seen.  Fleas are often found in damp, dark places and so the environment needs to be treated, as well as the chickens themselves.  Apply the same cleaning methods to the coop as stated for the red mites.

Scaly Leg: Knemidocoptes Mites

This mite causes grey crusts to appear on the chickens legs. Below these crusts the fowl’s skin will often be inflamed, and severe cases can cause difficult in walking.  The cause of this problem is due to aKnemidocoptes species of mite, which dwells in between the scales.  To solve this problem, bathe the chickens legs for as long as possible in fruit-tree carbolineum, soft soap, or glycerine  to soften the scales. After as much as possible has been absorbed clean the legs using a small soft brush and warm water and then apply a scabies cream to them.  The hen house will also have to be thoroughly cleaned out.