Pluripotent embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated cells capable of proliferation and self-renewal and have the capacity to differentiate into all somatic cell types and the germ line. They provide an in vitro model of early embryonic differentiation and are a useful means for targeted manipulation of the genome. Pluripotent stem cells in the chick have been derived from stage X blastoderms and 5.5 day gonadal primordial germ cells (PGCs). Blastoderm-derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have the capacity for in vitro differentiation into embryoid bodies and derivatives of the three primary germ layers. When grafted onto the chorioallantoic membrane, the ESCs formed a variety of differentiated cell types and attempted to organize into complex structures. In addition, when injected into the unincubated stage X blastoderm, the ESCs can be found in numerous somatic tissues and the germ line. The potential give rise to somatic and germ line chimeras is highly dependent upon the culture conditions and decreases with passage. Likewise, PGC-derived embryonic germ cells (EGCs) can give rise to simple embryoid bodies and can undergo some differentiation in vitro. Interestingly, chicken EG cells contribute to somatic lineages when injected into the stage X blastoderm, but only germ line chimeras have resulted from EGCs injected into the vasculature of the stage 16 embryo. To date, no lines of transgenic chickens have been generated using ESCs or EGCs. Nevertheless, progress towards the culture of avian pluripotent stem cells has been significant. In the future, the answers to fundamental questions regarding segregation of the avian germ line and the molecular basis of pluripotency should foster the full use of avian pluripotent stem cells.