In the chicken embryo, pulmonary ventilation and pulmonary gas exchange begin approximately one day before the completion of hatching. We asked to what extent the posture inside the egg, and the presence of the eggshell and membranes, may alter the mechanical behaviour of the respiratory system. The passive mechanical properties of the respiratory system were studied in chicken embryos during the internal pipping phase (rupture of the air cell) or the external pipping phase (hole in the eggshell). Tracheal pressure and changes in lung volume were recorded during mechanical ventilation, first, with the embryo curled up inside the egg, then again after exteriorization from the eggshell. In the internal pippers, respiratory system compliance increased and expiratory resistance decreased after exteriorization, whereas the mean inspiratory impedance did not change. In the external pippers, exteriorization had no significant effects on respiratory compliance, resistance, or impedance, and the values were similar to those of newly hatched chicks. We conclude that, in the chicken embryo, at a time when pulmonary ventilation becomes an important mechanism for gas exchange, the curled up posture inside the egg does not provide any significant mechanical constraint to breathing.