Chicken skeletal muscle satellite cells are located between the basement membrane and the sarcolemma of mature muscle fibers. Avian broilers have been genetically selected based on their high growth velocity and large muscle mass. The Wuding chicken is a famous local chicken in Yunnan Province that undergoes non-selection breeding and is slow growing. In this study, we aimed to explore differences in the proliferation and differentiation properties of satellite cells isolated from the two chicken breeds. Using immunofluorescence, hematoxylin-eosin staining and real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis, we analyzed the in vitro characteristics of proliferating and differentiating satellite cells isolated from the two chicken breeds. The growth curve of satellite cells was S-shaped, and cells from Wuding chickens entered the logarithmic phase and plateau phase 1 day later than those from Avian chicken. The results also showed that the two skeletal muscle satellite cell lines were positive for Pax7, MyoD and IGF-1. The expression of Pax7 followed a downward trend, whereas that of MyoD and IGF-1 first increased and subsequently decreased in cells isolated from the two chickens. These data indicated that the skeletal muscle satellite cells of Avian chicken grow and differentiate faster than did those of Wuding chickens. We suggest that the methods of breeding selection applied to these breeds regulate the characteristics of skeletal muscle satellite cells to influence muscle growth.