MicroRNA (miRNA) and other types of small regulatory RNAs play a crucial role in the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes. Several distinct classes of small regulatory RNAs have been discovered in recent years. To extend the repertoire of small regulatory RNAs characterized in chickens we used a deep sequencing approach developed by Solexa (now Illumina Inc.). We sequenced three small RNA libraries prepared from different developmental stages of the chicken embryo (days five, seven, and nine) to produce over 9.5 million short sequence reads. We developed a bioinformatics pipeline to distinguish authentic mature miRNA sequences from other classes of small RNAs and short RNA fragments represented in the sequencing data. Using this approach we detected almost all of the previously known chicken miRNAs and their respective miRNA* sequences. In addition we discovered 449 new chicken miRNAs including 88 miRNA candidates. Of these, 430 miRNAs appear to be specific to the avian lineage. Another six new miRNAs had evidence of evolutionary conservation in at least one vertebrate species outside of the bird lineage. The remaining 13 putative miRNAs appear to represent chicken orthologs of known vertebrate miRNAs. We discovered 39 additional putative miRNA candidates originating from miRNA generating intronic sequences known as mirtrons.