||Cranes and other long-legged
birds may be maintained in a sling in the event of injury or disease which
prevents them from standing unaided.
Make the sling
Make a frame and suspend the sling
- Make a frame, 1 x 1.5 m, preferably movable (on wheels). (P138.18.w1)
- PVC water pipes are appropriate for constructing the frame. (B703.10.w10)
- With a moveable frame the crane can be moved outside into more
natural surroundings when practical, providing exposure to stimuli
such as the weather and (if appropriate) conspecifics. (P138.18.w1)
- Attach the four corners of the sling to the corners of the frame. (P138.18.w1)
- Small link chain allows for easy adjustment of the height of the
sling; the number of links can be counted and marked for replication. (P138.18.w1)
- Pad edges and hard surfaces with towel/ layers of duct tape to
reduce the risk of injury if the crane kicks its legs. (P138.18.w1)
- An alternative option is to attach the four corners of the sling to
a hook above the crane; (P138.18.w1)
- this enables rotational movement, but continuous rotation one
direction may occur with resultant "winding up" of the sling
(increasing tightness and height). (P138.18.w1)
- It is more difficult to take the crane out of the sling. (P138.18.w1)
Position the crane in the sling
- Position the crane so that the thoracic inlet is slightly higher
than the tail: this is the case normally when the cane is standin; it
also helps prevent the crane from falling forwards out of the sling. (P138.18.w1)
- Use a back strap to help prevent the crane from falling out of the
sling backwards. (P138.18.w1)
- If weight bearing is desirable, position the sling in the frame such
that when the crane's full weight is in the sling the toes touch the
ground with the legs slightly flexed. (P138.18.w1)
- Monitor the leg (and if appropriate, wing) holes closely to make
sure they are not placing pressure on the limb vessels or nerves. (P138.18.w1)
- Monitor all areas of the crane touching the sling for pressure
sores, particularly around the keel, and where the limbs pass through
the material. (P138.18.w1)
- Padding can be added if necessary. (P138.18.w1)
- Monitor the crane to ensure that does not injure itself (e.g.
banging limbs against objects, friction with the edges of the sling
material round the limbs resulting in wounds) (P138.18.w1)
- If necessary, initially give small doses of a tranquilliser, e.g.
0.5 mg/kg diazepam. (B703.10.w10)
- Remove/cover or pad all long or sharp objects (loose strings, safety
pins etc.) or holes/gaps which the crane could swallow, impale itself on
or or tangle itself in. (P138.18.w1)
- Place food and water containers on a low bench in front of the
crane, at a height such that the crane can reach them. (P138.18.w1)
- Secure the containers so they cannot be tipped over. (P138.18.w1)
- Make sure there is no part of the containers which the bird
could injure itself on/with. (P138.18.w1)
- Entice the crane to eat, e.g. using mealworms on the feed,
earthworms in a container of soil or sand. (P138.18.w1)
- Tube (gavage) feed as necessary: many cranes refuse to eat or
drink while in a sling.
- Consider providing "toys" with which the crane can interact - ensure
these are safe. (P138.18.w1)
- Provide other cranes or non-threatening animals for company, as
- Physical therapy is important. (P138.18.w1)
- In a Mississippi sandhill crane, the following regimen was applied:
- Post fixation (intramedullary pin and cerclage wire to stabilise an
oblique fracture of the right femur, mid-diaphysis), the crane was
placed in a sling. Five days later it escaped from the sling during the
night and fractured the left distal radius and ulna; these fractures
were reduced and an intramedullary pin and cerclage wire used to
stabilise the ulna, followed by application of a figure-of eight
- By a week after the second surgery, the crane showed severe
bilateral paresis of the legs, uncoordinated leg muscle movements and
moderate bilateral contraction of the digital flexor muscles; there was
evident disuse atrophy of the pelvic limb muscles, with hyperextension
of the hocks and hyperflexion of the digits. The crane was unable to
support its body weight or to ambulate
- Passive range of motion exercises were started 3 - 4 times a day on
all leg joints from hips to toes to stretch the contacted muscles.
- Twice daily, the sling plus crane was lifted from the support frame
and the crane was "hand-walked" for 30 minutes at a time.
- After seven days, improved coordination was apparent, although not
of muscle strength.
- Sling-walking was continued and hydrotherapy added in the second
week, in a solar-heated 1 metre deep pool: the crane was "walked" to the
pool in the sling, then suspended with its legs submerged in the water
for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day, with the crane kicking
against the resistance of the water during this period. Additionally, the
crane was repeatedly lowered further into the water to standing in the
pool and supported to walk through the pool.
- In the third week, brief hand-assisted walks were introduced with
the crane not in the sling.
- In week four, a nylon dog harness was fitted for support during
assisted walking sessions (rather than using the sling), enabling
increased freedom of movement such as hock sitting. The harness was also
used for the hydrotherapy sessions. Each day the duration of exercise
sessions was increased by 15 minutes.
- At four weeks from initial surgery, with radiographic evidence of
excellent callus formation on the femur, the intramedullary pin was
removed from the femur. At four weeks from the wing surgery date,
radiographic evidence of satisfactory healing of the radius and ulna
enabled removal of the intramedullary pin from the ulna.
- When the figure-of-eight bandage was removed, considerable muscle
contracture was present in the wing; passive range of motion exercises,
both flexion and extension, were initiated at each wing joint.
- By the fifth week, the crane had regained enough musculoskeletal
strength and endurance to be engaging in 12 hours a day of walking and
pool exercises with only partial support via the harness; the crane was
returned to the sling support at night. "Tail tugs" were used to improve
muscular strength: for 1-2 minutes, repeated five times within a
515-miute period, the tail feathers were grasped gently, near the base
of the feathers, as the bird tried to walk away against this resistance;
this made the bird press its feet firmly against the ground while
contracting the leg muscles, stimulating muscle development.
- In the sixth week the use of the sling was discontinued and the
crane was allowed unrestricted pen exercise. At this stage the crane
still could not rise from sternal recumbency without assistance,
therefore 24-hour monitoring and the harness were used to assist rising
- In the seventh week the crane became able to stand up from sternal
recumbency without assistance; 24-hour monitoring was continued, but use
of the harness stopped and the crane was allowed unrestricted pen
- In the eighth week the crane became fully independent and was able
to return to its usual pen.
- It was noted that more frequent wing bandage changes and physical
therapy starting earlier might have prevented the permanent contracture
of wing muscles which led to inability to completely extend the affected
- By one year after the injury, the crane was showing normal physical
and behavioural characteristics.