Virtually nothing is known about glucocorticoid receptor (GR) or mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) gene expression in any avian species. Here we report the cloning of partial cDNAs for chicken GR and MR. These partial cDNAs were used as probes to characterize expression of GR and MR mRNA and to identify the full-length transcripts within the chicken genome. Chicken GR and MR sequences predicted from the genome sequence were compared with those of representatives of other vertebrate classes. GR and MR genes are located on chicken chromosomes 13 and 4, respectively. Northern blotting and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) results indicate that GR and MR are widely expressed in many tissues. Characterization of mRNA levels in the anterior pituitary gland during chick embryonic development by quantitative real time RT-PCR demonstrates decreased MR and increased GR gene expression between embryonic days 12 and 17. Plasma levels of corticosteroids increased during this same period. This is the first study of GR and MR gene expression in any avian species and the first analysis of changes in pituitary MR gene expression during embryonic development of any species.