The development of the trigeminal motor nucleus in the chick embryo was studied using autoradiographic, cell staining, fiber staining, and axonal transport techniques. It was found that this nucleus arises very early in neurogenesis, with the first cells produced at 48 hours of incubation (stage 12), peak cell production at 50--56 hours (stage 15), and neuroblast proliferation completed by 72 hours (stage 18). As has been described in mammalian embryos, the primordial trigeminal cells move from the ventricular layer to accumulate as part of the common medial column, and later migrate in a ventrolateral direction to form the definitive lateral motor nucleus. The first identifiable component of the trigeminal system is the semilunar ganglion, which flanks the neural tube at stage 12, and sends afferents into the metencephalon by stage 13. By stage 12-13, the medial column cells are first apparent, and at stage 14, a few of these medial column cells have moved to begin formation of a lateral nucleus. At this time, a thin motor root can be seen exiting the brainstem. During subsequent stages, migratory traffic from medial to lateral regions increases, with cells frequently moving in association with fiber processes in the marginal zone. These fibers are presumed to emanate from secondary sensory, reticular, and medial column neuroblasts. By day 5, the medial column is greatly depleted and by day 6--7, the definitive lateral motor nucleus is formed. Beginning at 5 days, the dorsal motor nucleus can be detected, with cells from the lateral nucleus appearing to stream in a dorsomedial direction for its formation. Injections of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) into the mandibular process of the first visceral arch resulted in retrograde labeling of lateral nucleus cells as early as 3.5 days of incubation. In addition, migrating cells, intermediate between medial column and lateral nucleus, were similarly labeled. These observations indicate that processes of the lateral nucleus cells and those of migrating cells are well into their peripheral field at this age, but we cannot conclude that neuromuscular affiliations have been established, due to the possibility of HRP diffusion and growth cone uptake.