The traditional strength of chicken embryos for studying development is that they are readily manipulated. This has led to some major discoveries in developmental biology such as the demonstration that the neural crest gives rise to almost the entire peripheral nervous system and the identification of signalling centres that specify the pattern of structures in the central nervous system and limb. More recently with the burgeoning discovery of developmentally important genes, chicken embryos have provided useful models for testing function. Uncovering the molecular basis of development provides direct links with clinical genetics. In addition, since many genes that have crucial roles in development are also expressed in tumours, basic research on chickens has implications for understanding human health and disease. Now that the chicken genome has been sequenced and genomic resources for chicken are becoming increasingly available, this opens up opportunities for combining these new technologies with the manipulability of chicken embryos and also exploiting comparative genomics.