In embryonic and adult lenses, a balance of cell proliferation, cell cycle exit, and differentiation is necessary to maintain physical function. The molecular mechanisms regulating the transition of proliferating lens epithelial cells to differentiated primary lens fiber cells are poorly characterized. To investigate this question, we used gain- and loss-of-function analyses to modulate fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and/or bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signals in chick lens/retina explants. Here we show that FGF activity plays a key role for proliferation independent of BMP signals. Moreover, a balance of FGF and BMP signals regulates cell cycle exit and the expression of Ccdc80 (also called Equarin), which is expressed at sites where differentiation of lens fiber cells occurs. BMP activity promotes cell cycle exit and induces Equarin expression in an FGF-dependent manner. In contrast, FGF activity is required but not sufficient to induce cell cycle exit or Equarin expression. Furthermore, our results show that in the absence of BMP activity, lens cells have increased cell cycle length or are arrested in the cell cycle, which leads to decreased cell cycle exit. Taken together, these findings suggest that proliferation, cell cycle exit, and early differentiation of primary lens fiber cells are regulated by counterbalancing BMP and FGF signals.