We report our findings on several parameters influencing cecal colonization of chickens by Campylobacter jejuni. Thirty-five colony-forming units (CFU) of a composite culture of C. jejuni colonized the ceca of one-half of the newly hatched chicks challenged by oral gavage. A challenge dose of 3500 CFU/chick consistently colonized the ceca of all chicks challenged. Challenge doses of approximately 10(5) CFU of C. jejuni per chick resulted in consistent cecal colonization, regardless of whether the birds were challenged 1, 2, or 3 days post-hatch. Four isolates showed consistently strong cecal colonization abilities, whereas two isolates colonized the ceca in only 20 of 122 chicks when given levels of 10(5) CFU per chick. One of these poorly colonizing isolates was repeatedly transferred by fecal-oral passage through chicks; subsequently, this isolate was able to consistently colonize chicks. Competitive exclusion (CE) microflora did not diminish the colonization rates for C. jejuni. Birds treated with five different CE cultures were colonized at a rate of 81 of 84 chicks; control chicks were similarly consistently colonized (45 of 46 chicks).