Recent research has shown that in the chicken important interactions take place between the adrenal and the thyroidal axis both at the central and the peripheral level. In vivo as well as in vitro experiments showed that ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone (oCRH) clearly increases thyrotropin (TSH) secretion in late embryonic and early posthatch chicks. In vivo experiments in older chickens, however, suggested that this response might disappear at a later stage. Therefore we started to study in detail the ontogeny of the TSH releasing activity of oCRH using the in vitro perifusion technique. Several embryonic stages (E14, E16, and E18) as well as posthatch stages (C1, C8, C22, and adult chickens) were included in the study. We also investigated the possible regulatory role of somatostatin (SRIH) in this specific endocrine function of CRH. The perifusion studies show that CRH stimulated the TSH release at all stages tested. The 10 and 100 nM oCRH doses were almost equally effective at the early embryonic stages while in most posthatch stages the higher oCRH dose was significantly more effective than the lower one. The stimulation factor, representative for the relative increase in TSH secretion following oCRH challenge, was high at early embryonic stages and clearly lower in adult animals. This seemed to be related to an age-dependent increase in basal TSH secretion levels. In both embryonic (E19) and posthatch (C8) chicks a pretreatment of the pituitaries with SRIH lowered the sensitivity of the thyrotropes to an oCRH challenge. This effect was more pronounced in the posthatch chicks compared to the embryos. The results show that CRH is capable of stimulating the TSH secretion during the entire life cycle of the chicken and that SRIH may play an important role in the fine-tuning of this response by lowering the sensitivity of the thyrotropes to CRH.