Building a Momma Heat Cave for Ducklings

For my Spring Ducklings of 2019 i did not want to use a heat-lamp for two reasons: First it is a fire hazard, regardless how well it is secured, second and more important to me, i want the ducklings to be able sleep during the night without a harsh light shining at them, thus getting used to a normal day and night cycle.
After reading about the Mama Heating Pad (MHP) i decided to build a duckling version. Ducklings like to pile up on top of each other for their sleeping time and they also grow taller by the day so they need some more head-room so i created the »Momma Heat Cave« (MHC).

Required materials:
  • A solid metal basket, not too small not too large for the number of ducklings you want to raise. Keep in mind that ducklings do like to sleep piled up together, not only for warmth, they need the contact to feel safe! I found my basket at a $-store, but they are also available online or at stores carrying bathroom paraphernalia. Always use a metal basket, plastic might deform under the influence of the heat-pad!
  • A heat-pad that roughly matches your basket, i found mine online for a few dollars. Important is, that you don't buy a heat pad with an automatic shut-off, controlled by a timer. The heat-pad should stay on when you turn it on. Having several different heat-settings is also a must, mine has three. During the day i set it to »medium« during the night to »high«. I expect that to change when the ducklings grow larger.
  • A roll of duct-tape. - Wherever you put duct-tape on the basket, make sure that there are no glue-patches exposed. That stuff sticks like hell when it is warm and could injure a duckling.
I bought below metal-basket from the local $-store, which if turned upside down, has a nice cave-like entrance:


The small wire feet were easy to bend flat using a pair of pliers. The back-side of the basket was taped shut with a double layer of duct-tape, extra care was taken to avoid any glue being exposed to curious ducklings.


And then the heat-pad was draped around the basket length-wise. This step is much easier when the heat-pad is warm - i turned it to medium - and the plastic cover is somewhat malleable. The heat-pad is then fixed with duct-tape on all sides and the MHC should look like this:


I secured the heat-pad cable to the back of the MHC, so that no duckling can chew on it, stumble or use it to climb out:

A test run with the heat pad set to "medium" revealed that the temperature inside reached 32.5°C (90F) with a room temperature of 21°C (70F) - sufficient for even the smallest duckling.

I have installed the MHC in the brooder for the 2019 Spring Ducklings and the birds loved it immediately! Over the day they stuffed their little bellies full, went into the cave and slept for an hour, then came back out to stuff their bellies, …
Overnight they slept undisturbed without any artificial light, quiet, sometimes a gentle happy-chirp and they got out in the morning refreshed and strong. Here is a picture, taken at nighttime into the MHC:

As you can see each duckling has chosen its sleeping spot matching its personal preference.

Edit 2019-02-04
  1. The ducklings have grown a lot in one week and it became too warm for the largest to sleep inside, so i cut out a corner of a cardbord-box and placed it as an extension to the side of the MHC:
  2. Went shopping for some pine-shavings today and found two good example products at KMart that can be easily turned into MHCs:

Think out of the box! And visit the Momma Heat Cave Album for more pictures.
About author
A German, living in the U.S.A. since 2007, first for 10 years in the suburbs of Houston (TX), in 2018 moved to Charleston (WV) to experience the much quieter and relaxed country life. I am working for a large company in the IT-business and taking care of our ducks is a very welcome diversion from the office-work and the traveling.

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I think this is a great idea and would probably be better than a heat lamp.
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I've been putting off building one, but as easy as this is, why wait!


I appreciate your directions and pictures. I assembled my first attempt and I am in the process of verifying the temps. I bought the shorter heating pad so I do not get the coverage shown in your photos. I may end up ordering the longer heating pad and redoing that part.
Interested in trying your idea. How is it safer than a heat light? Is using the heating pad still a fire hazard?
If you mean fire-hazard because it is something »electric« you are right. Heat-pads can short-circuit and cause a fire, but very unlikely. A heat bulb can easily reach a temperature of more than 250°C (482F) at its surface, so even a piece of paper accidentally touching the bulb will ignite. The heat-pad that i used only got up to 48°C (118F) and won't ignite anything.
And if you have ever had ducklings in a brooder, you know how curious these guys are: »What is that long black worm there, let me pull at it really hard…«
Interested in trying your idea. How is it safer than a heat light? Is using the heating pad still a fire hazard?
Even more important for me was the fact that the heat-cave allowed the ducklings to develop a day and night cycle. I have Runner ducks from Rural King which grew up under a heat-lamp and they freak out if there's no light in the duck-house. Complete and devastating panic!!! The Spring Ducklings on the other hand seek out the darkest corners in the duck house to sleep. I am down to a 15W light bulb in the duck house and that's it. Less light and there will be dead ducks.

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