This study investigated the effect of non-ventilation of the incubator during the first 10 days of incubation on carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the incubator and its effects on the embryonic and post-hatch development of the chicken (Gallus gallus). Two different incubation conditions were created, one incubator was kept at standard conditions, with adequate ventilation (V) and a second incubator was nonventilated (NV) during the first ten days of incubation, allowing the CO2 to rise. After the first 10 days, both incubations were continued under standard conditions. The experiment was repeated twice with different ages of the breeders (45 and 60 wks) which resulted in different CO2 levels at ED10 (1.5 and 1%). The CO2 concentration in the V incubators remained below 0.1% in these first 10 days. The eggs of the NV incubation showed higher pCO(2) levels in the air cell from ED10 until ED14 compared to the eggs of the V group. The NV embryos had significantly higher absolute and relative (to egg weight) body weights from ED10 until ED18, pointing to an accelerated embryonic growth. At internal pipping, the NV chick embryos had higher plasma corticosterone and T-3 levels and higher pCO(2) in the air cell. Chicks incubated under NV conditions hatched 10 h earlier in the first and 15 h earlier in the second experiment and the spread of hatch was narrower. During the post-hatch period, the NV chickens had a higher body weight compared to the V chickens. From these results, it is clear that higher levels of CO2 during the first ten days of incubation have persistent (epigenetic) effects during the incubation and early post-hatch period. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.