I met Brian Sweeting and his wife, Marlene at the 2000 Budgerigar Society World Show at Doncaster.  The initial meeting was whilst Jen and I were having a meal in the dining room of The Moat House Motel the judges and many fanciers shared, we had tables next to each other and started to chat.   We met again later after the completion of judging of the BS Show, Brian was more than happy as I had given the CC for Lutino young birds and best Lutino in show to a stunning baby Lutino Hen that was bred by. him. Brian and his wife invited Jen and I to stay with them at Somerset, but unfortunately, time did not permit – hopefully next time.


Ed:                     How did you get interested in the fancy?


Brian:               I was first interested in birds when I was a young boy as my father was one of the West Country’s leading pigeon fanciers and at the same time kept canaries and British birds.  At that time I had a few budgies, given to me by a friend, which were colony-bred from exhibition birds of the day.  I enjoyed owning and caring for creatures that were completely dependent on me for their well being.  At this time I knew nothing of the Budgerigar Society and the huge interest that there was in exhibition birds.  It was the late fifties when the hobby was booming and most homes had a pet budgie.  Later, when girls came into my life, the interest waned and died.  However, I always had a desire to keep birds sometime later in my life when circumstances allowed. As a teenager, my interests, were sport and fishing which lead me to keeping tropical fish and Japanese koi carp in particular.  After keeping fish for many years I was in great demand for advice and information on the secrets to keeping fish healthy and the technicalities of water filtration systems.  This was how I became re-introduced to bird keeping. After moving into a new house, Ken Spraggs (a work colleague) visited me to see how my koi pond had been constructed and in particular the technical aspects of the pond filtration.  During the visit I mentioned that my next project would be to build an aviary as part of the landscaping in my new and barren garden.  I had it in mind to construct a flight, which would be visible through trees and shrubs I had already planted with the shed behind them out of sight.  Ken planned to build a pond in his garden and I offered to help him.  On my first visit to Ken’s, in the spring of 1986, I saw in his garden some wonderful budgies, the like of which I had never seen before.  The following day I started to make a bird room similar to Ken’s main birdroom which bore no resemblance to my original concept. Ken has two birdrooms one used for only breeding which contains 20 cages and measures approximately 10’ x 10’.  The other shed contains 12 breeding cages together with an inside flight and large outside flight.  I created my first shed based on this design.  The main difference between them is that I built 14 cages facing the inside flight which was 11’ x 4’.  This I felt would create a better ambiance than Ken’s which had his cages at right angles to the flight and did not give full visibility from all the breeding cages to the flight.  My new shed was approximately 11’ x 11’ square with an outside flight a further 6’ long. The shed was constructed using the outside wall of my house and the garden wall. It only needed the addition of a front and back wall and roof thus cutting down the construction cost.  As I was living on what was little more than a building site, I had a great opportunity to scrounge materials from the builders in return for cups of tea.  That bird room was constructed for just £29-00.During the shed construction period, I adapted a section of my greenhouse temporarily by removing some of the glass and making up a block of six cages.  I bought a few pairs from Ken and bred with them, using plastic rings to identify the chicks.  During the following year I joined the BS and used the official rings.  I also moved from the greenhouse into my newly-built bird room.


Ed:                   From where did you obtain your foundation stock?   I have a feeling Ken Spraggs might feature a bit given his initial input, also include your show successes through to 2000.



Brian: Yes Ken does feature as I purchased more birds from Ken every time I visited him, which was often as I was helping him to construct his pond.  From my initial fourteen pairs I produced one hundred and eight chicks by May 1987.  The bloodline of the birds I acquired from Ken was Lane, Spraggs and Piper.  I didn’t realise until I started to exhibit that these three were amongst the best breeders in the country at that time - what luck!!!. Ken lent me a few show cages for my first show season and, needless to say, I did a lot of winning finishing up as top beginner in the Western Counties area.


In the Autumn of 1987 I managed to buy a pied cock from Ken which had been bred from Eric Lane’s best dominant pied which had won many Best in Shows all over the country.  I checked the stock purchased the year previous and found a related hen to pair it with.  This pair produced many good young birds, the best of which was a sky-blue pied cock, which won many Best Beginner Young Bird awards and CCs.  It was never beaten by another pied at any show over two show seasons culminating in Best Pied in Show at Doncaster in 1988, my first success at the BS Club show.  This was one of many good birds that I bred and exhibited that year, resulting in me being top beginner in the whole country in 1988/89. The unfortunate result of my early success was that many doors were now closed to me; I was unable to buy an outcross of any consequence for several years.  This was until I meet Pat Suter and Ken Burt who both live within an hour’s drive.  We became, and still are, very good friends.  Neither of them exhibit their birds very often nowadays but they own excellent stock.  They let me have, the type of birds I needed to improve my stud at very reasonable prices.  I continued to succeed through all status’s, in style winning many major awards at local and national level.  My first year as champion, in 1996, was a marvelous year.  The first championship show was at Worcester and always attracts the best breeders from Wales and the Midlands. My idol, Eric Lane, exhibited and was congratulated by many fanciers for the excellent young pied that had won Best Young Bird in Show.  They were, however, sadly mistaken, as the bird was not Eric’s, it was mine.  This was a great compliment to me as I had always aimed to produce pieds like Eric’s from the day I first saw his birds.  Eric paid me the finest tribute I could personally receive saying that he wished he had as much 1980s Lane blood in his current stock as I had.  (I will tell you more, later about this connection).  I went on to become the country’s top first year champion at the Club Show that year. Since then I have won approaching 100 CCs and many Best Young Bird & Best in Shows which is pretty good as I only show at seven or eight shows each year.  I only exhibit at Championship shows, which bench at least 650 birds.  The timing of the smaller shows, which are generally held in the Autumn, interfere with my breeding plans.  The only exception is the Club Show at Doncaster, which is where every serious exhibitor should go to assess his stock.  I have had success at the club show frequently over the years since 1988, winning CC’s in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000.

Ed: You mention the Club Show and its status and the fact you have won a number of Challenge Certificates (CC’s) and major specials at this event – what were these?



1988 Dominant Pied Sky Blue cock (young) - 3rd best Beginner young bird.  Best Pied in show.

1994        Opaline Cinnamon Grey Green cock (adult) - 5th Intermediate any age.


1996 Dominant Pied Grey cock (young) - 4th Champion young bird.  Best Pied in show.

1998 Grey Green cock (adult) – 3rd best Champion any age. Best Grey green in show.

2000                  Lutino hen (young) - best Lutino in show.


Also best section Pied and Redeye several times over the years when not having won the CC.


Ed:                  You live in Somerset, which is in the South West of England -

what Club / Society are you involved with?


Brian:               Through Ken Spraggs I was introduced to the local club, Somerset Budgerigar Society.  I joined the committee at my second meeting, being known for my activities as Chairman of the local fishing club and as Treasurer of the Ramblers Carnival Club (I could write a book about Carnival, but I wont).


Over the years I have been President, Chairman, Secretary, Patronage Secretary and Publicity Officer.  I am still the holder of the last three positions mentioned.  As you know the hobby has declined considerably in the UK over the last ten years.  At Somerset, however, we are holding our own.  At present we are bucking the national trend with increased membership.  Our recent Championship shows have benefited from an increase in numbers of birds benched year upon year.  The club will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002.  Having benched 920 in 2000 we are hoping this year to achieve the milestone of 1000 birds benched which will grant us double CCs (ie for both young birds and any age birds) for our Silver Anniversary Show.


Ed:                  In most interviews, one gets asked about their bird room, so I will

not let you down, although you have previously mentioned it was designed the same as Ken Spraggs earlier in this interview – explain your bird room as it stands today to the readers please.


Brian:               After two years in my original bird room, described above, I built a larger shed with twenty breeding cages.  It also had one inside and two outside flights.  These are still in use today, but guess what, I then constructed an extension, which had two more small flights and some stock cages.  The extension is used mainly for visitors nowadays to keep them out of my breeding room.  The breeding room has been slightly altered to contain thirty-six breeding cages, all of which are constructed on opposite sides of the breeding room to allow visual contact between the breeding pairs, this I feel enhances the breeding and mating of each pair.


Since taking early retirement in the spring of this year, I have built a second shed on the foundations of my original bird room.  This has nine breeding cages and an inside and outside flight.  I intend to work the red eye line in that bird room, and increase the number of breeding pairs now that I have the time and space to do so.


Ed:                  The next is also a compulsory question – what is your feeding



Brian: I use George Buckton ‘Champion Blend’ which is the equivalent seed  to the Trill mix before they stopped supplying the breeder sacks.  I add tonic seed to this, which contains a mix of about fifteen different seeds.  This is the basic diet to which I add a treat each day.  I don’t like to think that the birds have to suffer a boring diet of seed alone.  I provide dishes of groats, niger, sunflower, soft food, egg, apple, carrot and chickweed.  They get one of these treats every day according to availability.  The soft food I use is a proprietary brand called ‘Quiko’.  This is fed daily to all breeding pairs and to the show team whilst they are caged.  Another extra soft food I use is ‘Thrivon Plus’.  This is produced as a supplement for pedigree farm animals and contains high protein with added cod liver oil.  This is the only form of oil I feed.  They can take it or leave it but I find that the breeding pairs that produce successfully all eat about two finger drawers-full each day.  I also add a little calcium supplement (Calcivet from Vetrafarm) to water when breeding and occasionally during the year as well as ‘Antec’, another farming additive, to the water twice a week.  This is a multi vitamin supplement normally fed to animals and poultry to relieve stress and as a pick me up.  I also provide cuttlefish and iodised mineral blocks.  I consider it important to buying grit from as many sources as possible this gives maximum chance of providing the minerals they require.  The grit is changed in all cages and flights every week.  Kilpatricks minerals are also available to all breeding pairs.  This mineral is collected from beaches in France, and is very salty.  I fill the finger drawers up as soon as they are emptied.  Incidentally I can guarantee that feeding this prevents feather plucking, I have stopped hens doing this in mid-stream having found that there finger drawer was empty.


Ed:                  We seemed to have covered most of the compulsory questions, so

lets find out why Red -Eyes and Dominant Pieds?


Brian:               Red-eyes - Like most people new to the hobby, I was attracted to the more colourful varieties.  I liked the Dominant Pieds and my wife preferred the Red Eyes.  So to please her and hopefully to attract her interest I bought a pair of Lutinos from Ken Spraggs.  The hen had his ring, the cock was bred by another local champion exhibitor, Horace Bidgood.  I found out from Horace that the parents of his cock were from Margery Kirkby-Mason as were the parents of Ken’s hen.  So as you can tell I bred pure Kirkby-Mason stock from square one.  My first ever rosette was won was with young hen from this pair.  I knew I had a ‘good un’ when Reg Watts from Weston Super Mare asked to buy it.  The hen was regularly beating his birds in the CC line up and Reg was one of the country’s leading Lutino specialists throughout the eighties.  I also liked Albinos so I swapped a few normals for Albinos with Bill Searle and bought an Opaline Grey cock from Ken Spraggs, which was split Albino and was bred from Bill’s stock.  They clicked immediately and I was soon winning Albino CCs.  It took much longer to win a CC with the Lutinos as the West Country had many very good Lutino breeders, Margery Kirkby-Mason, Reg Watts and Harry Willis to mention a few.  This was the foundation of my red eye family.  The influence from other breeders has been minimal.  I obtained from Shaun Milden (through swapping) three young Lutinos bred from my original stock to which a Ray Brown cock had been introduced the previous year and I also obtained a few birds from Amos & Thumwood.


Despite only ever breeding with a maximum of four pairs per year I have achieved many major successes with red-eyes, including Best in show, Best opposite sex in show, Best young bird in show and best opposite sex young bird on many occasions.  The real quality comes from pairing normal hens to the best Lutino cocks every few years.  This keeps them looking like good budgies rather than the typical finer feathered Lutinos which most red-eye specialists persevere with.  One point of interest, I have found is breeding with yellow face cobalt hens to my best Lutino cocks have contributed most to colour improvement.


Dominant Pieds - I am best known as a Dominant Pied breeder, having won many Best Young Bird, Best in Show awards and CCs since breeding the original Sky Blue Pied in 1988.  That bird won nine Best Beginner Young Bird awards as well as many CCs.  After returning from Doncaster in 1988 it was paired to its cousin and they bred seventeen youngsters, all of which were very good beginner birds. They were all retained and paired back into stock from the sky’s parents.  These pairs in turn bred one hundred and fifty three chicks in the following year.  By this time I was in the position mentioned earlier where it was impossible to buy quality outcrosses.  I realise now that this was the best thing that could have happened, as I had no alternative but to line breed.  The quality stock I already owned was suitable for this and the style, size and fertility was soon fixed.  I could almost guarantee that I would breed quality birds all the time.  However, I lacked the depth of face and spot size necessary to take me up the next rung on the ladder.


As mentioned earlier I met Ken Burt at our local show in 1991 and he introduced me to Pat Suter.  They both owned birds with excellent faces.  On my first visit to Pat, I purchased a pair and from there on I was on the right road. The normal Grey Green hen purchased was a wonderful bird, she was a little flecked, I paired firstly to an Opaline Cinnamonwing Light Green cock that was very clean.  All the chicks were clear of flecking and were introduced to pied family the following year.  I was breeding birds with enough quality all round to win major awards regularly.


Obviously the birds bred were not all Pieds; the normals were also very good.  I always maintained that I would never introduce another Pied bloodline into my stud.  This was until 1999 when I met John Thornton, a fancier who had all Eric Lane stock.  When Eric retired, John spent a lot of time with him and much like Ken Spraggs and myself, Eric started him off with some very good stock, amongst them of course there were some Pieds.  In the meantime Eric had died and John wanted to purchase birds from me knowing that I had a foundation of Lane stock.  Sadly we also lost John this year but before he died he offered to sell me his birds which I was pleased to do.  Although John was only a novice he owned stock that any breeder in the world would have been delighted to buy.  I look forward to introducing them into my stud in the coming breeding season (Pieds and all), so watch this space.


Ed:                  Ok, in summary, your criteria for success is what?


Brian:               ¨         Breed with the best birds, regardless of colour, never sell the

best birds.

¨ If they look good in the box, keep them they’ll look good when

they grow up. (tip from Harry Bryan).

Make a yearly assessment of your stock and set objectives to achieve in the coming breeding season.