Chemical genetics is a potentially powerful tool for studying developmental processes in vertebrate systems. We present data showing Xenopus laevis as a model organism in which systematic chemical genetic screens can be carried out. Previous forward chemical genetic screens, including those with developing zebrafish embryos, have demonstrated the nature and value of biological information gained with this approach. We show how amenable Xenopus is to chemical genetics by investigating a series of compounds either with known biochemical effects, or previously identified to give developmental phenotypes, on a range of biological functions, including the development of pigmentation, the heart and the central nervous system in zebrafish. We have found that the compounds give comparable phenotypes when applied to developing Xenopus embryos. We have also studied the penetrance and expressivity of these chemical genetic phenotypes in relation to genetic variation and the developmental window during which the compound is present. Finally, we assess the feasibility and the potential throughput of a screen in this vertebrate species.