Creating & Maintaining a Winning Stud – Pierre Swart, South Africa

Everyone remembers your recent success on the show bench, but nobody remembers that many times you travelled to shows and did not even win a first place.

When people ask me how I managed to build up our current stud, a number of things come to mind.

The Principal

First of all – how do you tell somebody just in a few short sentences how to do it, because anybody can do it, if they put their mind to it.

It is actually a very simple principle, but that is the only easy part, the principal, the rest is not so easy.

Doc Robinson

Many years ago we obtained a Grey cock from the famous Doc Robinson line.

It was a good bird, but no longer a young bird.

We paired it to a nice Opaline Light Green hen that we got from another person, who claimed that it came with a Doc Robinson bloodline in it.

This pair produced five chicks.

The youngsters were not outstanding, but fair. We wanted good chicks from this cock, so we paired it up to a better hen.

Needless to say no chicks!

We tried the cock with a few other hens, bred a few more chicks, but nothing much, and in the end the cock died.

Keep the Blood Together

After a while we began noticing that his chicks with the Opaline Light Green hen began to look better and better every day.

Unfortunately, we had already got rid of the two weaker ones – both hens.

That was a big mistake!

One of the chicks, an Opaline Sky-Blue cock, won us our first Major award – Best Beginner on Show at the 1996 Eastern Cape Area Show.

We started to use these three cocks – some of which can still be traced back in our birds’ pedigrees.

This was the first hard lesson we learned – keep the blood together and don’t be too hasty evaluating youngsters from good blood lines.

We made a promise to ourselves to be very weary of this in the future.

Very Good Youngsters

The same year we paired a good Molkentin-bred cock to a De Beer hen – which was very average but she was very well bred.

This time we saw the chicks were good and we kept them breeding for 3 more rounds, fostering all the chicks.

We tried to get as many chicks as we could from this pairing.

Later we paired the hen and cock to different partners after they had rested well.

Both the parents produced good offspring for us with different partners.

We learned our second very important lesson: when both birds (the cock & hen) are predominant in producing good offspring, the chances of them producing very good youngsters is good.

Pairings Will Start To Pick Themselves

We started to make sure that we test-pair our birds with different partners, taking just one round and then at a later stage pair those birds together that have produced good youngsters with different partners.

One thing that is coming out of this system, is the saying that “you have to know your birds to breed them”.

Using this system is slow in the beginning, but after a very few years it will get momentum.

Good families will start to build and pairings will start to pick themselves.

Outstanding Quality

In 2005 we picked a Yellowface Grey Cinnamon spangle cock and a Grey Cinnamon spangle hen – they just looked perfect for each other.

We must admit that it is not a pairing everybody would have made, but we knew their backgrounds.

Both their parents produced good birds.

We waited for them to mature and then paired them.

At first a huge disappointment, the hen began plucking just after the chicks had been rung so we had to foster them out.

As the chicks started to feather up we realized that our calculations were spot on, they were all of outstanding quality, producing many Best In Show and CC winners.

A Blessing In Disguise

The hen plucking her chicks in this case was a blessing in disguise.

It made us implement a new system.

In the past we fostered the eggs of every second round, but we now began fostering the chicks as soon as we rung them.

This lets the hen go through the full breeding cycle but is just shortens it.

If a pair is looked well after in this way then it is it will easily produce 20 and more real quality chicks and any breeder will know how valuable this is for any stud.

Pair Up As Long As Possible

Many visitors over the years were amazed by how many chicks we were able to get from a good pair.

Remember that when two birds produced good chicks with different partners, and they are paired together, they will then produce the required quality youngsters.

They should be paired up together as long as possible, to get the maximum chicks possible.

We had some pairs together for as long as 2 years.

Brothers And Sisters

We also used the sisters and brothers of the Spangle Grey Cinnamons extensively enlarging the family and also adding other colours.

We paired a well bred Opaline Cobalt to one of the daughters of a Spangle Cinnamon pairing.

This produced our 2007 National winner, his mother’s sister was also best opposite sex at the same National.

Today we have very good Grey Greens, Light Greens and Greys, winning the South African National in 2011 with a Normal Grey.

Brothers And Sisters

If this sounds very easy to you, let it be a fair warning, because it is not.

You should be prepared for all kinds of setbacks that come with breeding good birds, i.e. French Moult, infertility, chicks being attacked by parents and the list can go on and on.

Most probably the French Moult set us back the most.

We started to use a product called Viro Kill which also kills the Polyoma virus. We are using it extensively, touch wood but for a number of years we don’t have that problem anymore.

Fresh Produce

Recently we started producing less and less numbers, we knew our infertility was not because of inbreeding, so we had a good look at our feeding system.

We decided to reduce all the added vitamins and replacing it with fresh produce, it seems like things are starting to pick up again and chicks are hatching more than before which to us is music to our ears.

Focus, Dedication & Observation

If you want to keep on breeding quality budgerigars you have to be focused, dedicated and at all times very observant, but most of all be ready to absorb setbacks every day.

If you can do that, you are half way there.

Good luck with your own creation of an excellent stud.


All photographs below were kindly supplied to us by Maja & Pierre Swart.

Click on any image to enlarge it.



Filed Under: BeginnersBreedingFeaturedProfiles



About the Author:

Pierre and Maja Swart joined the Karoo Budgerigar Club in 1993 and a year later they travelled 800km to Johannesburg to their first show.

They did not show any birds, but simply worked as stewards. That weekend they learned more about budgerigar breeding in South Africa than they had in the previous two years.

Their stud was initially built via major purchases of birds bred by Doc Robinson and Reinhardt Molkentin and they have been hugely successful on the show bench since 1996.

They have won the South Africa national show's Champion of Champions medal every year from 2006 to 2011.

Indeed, in 2011, they achieved a first in South Africa (since the establishment of the Budgerigar Society of South Africa in 1936) in winning the national three times consecutively.

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  1. Japie Nel Novice SA says:

    Hi Gerald…

    Had the oppertunity to visit them in 2011 after they had won the National show that year with an amazing grey cock…that took place in Cradock SA!!
    In my Opinion…they are one of the best breeders in the world…along side Mannes,Lutolf,Molkentin ect.
    Have the greatest respect for them and what they have accomplish in the short period of time!!
    The perfect role models for any novice anywhere!!

    And above all the are awesome people in every sense of the word!

    All you can ever say about Pierre and Maja is…watch this space!!!

  2. Truly a super article – full of knowledge.

    Thank you very much Maja & Pierre.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

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