Onset of auditory brainstem responses in chickens takes place at about embryonic day 11/12 (E11/12). We investigated early development of neuronal properties of chicken nucleus laminaris neurons, the third-order auditory neurons critically involved in sound localization. Whole-cell patch recordings were performed in brainstem slices obtained at E10, E11, E12, E14, E16, and E18. At E18 neurons acquired an adult-like firing pattern in response to prolonged depolarizing current injections, with a single spike at the onset of the current injection followed by a plateau of membrane potential. At earlier ages, however, multiple spikes and/or subthreshold membrane potential oscillations were generated. We observed a >threefold reduction in input resistance from E10 to E18, and progressive changes in excitability properties, such as elevated threshold currents for spike generation, increased spike rising and falling rates, accompanied by reduced spike width and enhanced ability to follow high frequency inputs. Consistent with development of firing properties, the amplitude of voltage-gated potassium channel (Kv) currents increased by approximately threefold from E10 to E18, with a dramatic increase ( approximately ninefold) in the low threshold component. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) were first recorded at E10, prior to and independent of the cochlear afferent inputs from the auditory nerve to the cochlear nucleus. EPSPs became markedly briefer in duration during the period studied. We conclude that the basic features of the key neuronal properties of NL neurons are well constructed during early development from E10 to E18.