AB12: Supplementary winter feeding for farmland birds

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the supplementary winter feeding for farmland birds option.

How much will be paid

£632 per tonne for every 2 hectares (ha) of winter bird food.

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part-parcel


Only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland
  • bush orchards

Only where a qualifying area of AB9 - Winter bird food is included in the agreement (2ha of AB9 winter bird food allows 500kg per annum of supplementary feeding, at each of 2 separate feeding stations)

Where this option cannot be used

On organic parcels or land in conversion.

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides important food resources for farmland birds in late winter and early spring on arable and mixed farms, by supplementing crops of winter bird food when they have been depleted and before natural food sources become available in late spring.

If successful there will be seed-eating farmland birds using the feeding areas from December to April, including:

  • yellowhammer
  • grey partridge
  • tree sparrow
  • corn bunting
  • linnet
  • turtle dove (seen during the spring and summer)

Target birds will be seen more frequently on the farm in the spring and there will be increased breeding success there.


  • spread the supplementary feed mixture specified in the agreement at an average rate of 25kg on the ground, at least once a week from 1 December until 30 April, at each of two separate feeding locations
  • select feeding areas that are firm and free-draining, such as farm tracks or hard standing areas, and in close proximity to enhanced overwinter stubbles, game cover or wild bird seed mixtures

Do not:

  • use hoppers to supply more than 10% of the total amount of feed provided during the specified feeding period
  • use tailings (small seeds and chaff removed from the harvested crop) as supplementary feed

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • details of the mixture used (weight of components and cost)
  • dates of feeding
  • method of feeding (hopper or spreading)
  • amount of feed
  • the location of the feeding areas

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

Pick the right location

When planning which feeding sites to use, make sure they can be reached regularly. This is especially important if bad weather will cause problems travelling to them during the winter.

It is important for the health of the birds benefiting from the supplementary feeding that clean and healthy feeding areas are maintained. Rotating feeding sites around the farm is very important, but each site should be near existing sown resources.

Manage how and when to supplementary feed

Having 2ha of AB9 Winter bird food in the agreement allows 1 tonne of supplementary feed to be spread each year, split equally between 2 feeding stations, so 500kg per year per feeding station. Where less than 2ha of AB9 is put into the agreement, a pro-rata amount of AB12 can be included. For example, the minimum area allowed of AB9 is 0.4ha. This would allow 200kg of AB12 to be included, spread equally between two feeding stations, so 100kg per year per feeding station.

Supplementary feeding should start before the sown winter bird food runs out. This keeps farmland birds using the areas and prevents a dip in their winter condition.

Distribute enough supplementary food to match the birds’ consumption, so that seed is not left uneaten. This will ensure that a fresh supply of food is maintained, which will keep birds healthy and reduce any rodent problems. This is particularly important when ground feeding, or if hoppers are left unprotected.

Feed twice a week so that no food is left by the second day after feeding. As well as reducing rodents this will cut down on the use of the supplementary feed areas by crows and pigeons. Feed should be well spread out on the areas chosen, rather than left in piles.

Prepare to be flexible, so that if the winter period is extended through bad weather, the amount of feeding planned can be adjusted and extended for any additional days or weeks that are needed. This ensures that birds are not left with a ‘hungry gap’ before the natural seed resources on the farm become available.

What seed mix to use

The ideal mix should be a maximum of 70% cereal (wheat, barley, oats, triticale) and 3 or 4 of white millet, red millet, linseed, oil seed rape, canary seed, nyger seed, sunflower hearts (which can be bought in). A mix of 40% naked oats, 30% wheat, 20% millet and 10% oilseed rape has provided good results on some farms.

Further information

See the Mid Tier manual or Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.