Abstract Multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) and multidrug resistance-associated protein 2 (MRP2) are two prominent members of the super-family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters that carry a wide range of substrates across biological membranes, using ATP as energy source. The level of expression of these efflux transporters in different tissues has hitherto been studied mainly in mammals, and only P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the product of the MDR1 gene, has been described in chickens as of yet. The aim of this study was to describe the levels of expression of MDR1 and MRP2 mRNAs in different tissues of chickens, as these transporters play an important role in the absorption, distribution and excretion of drugs and toxins. In the gastro-intestinal tract, the highest levels of MDR1 mRNA expression were found in the small intestines, followed by the colon, whereas lower levels were found in the crop, proventriculus and the caeca. High MDR1 expression was also measured in the excretory organs such as liver, kidney and lungs. In contrast to rodents and humans, relatively low levels were found in the adrenals and in the immature sex organs such as testicles and ovaries. MRP2 mRNA expression was high in the liver, kidneys, duodenum and the jejunum, but expression was low in the ileum as well as in the lungs. No MRP2 expression could be detected in the other organs tested. Comparing the findings in chickens with previously published data, in particular those from humans and rodents, an unexpected high degree of similarity in the expression pattern of MDR1 and MRP2 mRNAs was apparent.