The distribution of mast cells (MCs) was studied in the lymphoid organs (thymus, bursa of Fabricius and spleen) of 0-, 7-, 21-, 30- and 120-day-old chickens, using light microscopic histochemical techniques. Tissues samples were obtained under deep anaesthesia from animals in five groups. Tissues were fixed in Mota's fixative (basic lead acetate) for 24 h and embedded in paraffin. Six-micrometre-thick sections were stained with toluidine blue in 0.5% aqueous solution at pH 1.0 for 5 min and Alcian blue/Safranine at pH 1.42 for 30 min. MCs were found in the organs, mostly associated with sinuses and blood vessels. A large increase in MCs was observed in both thymus and spleen of 21-day-old chickens compared with 0-, 7-, 30- and 120-day-old chickens. However, in the bursa of Fabricius, numbers of MCs were significantly higher in the 7-day-old group compared with other age groups. Safranine-positive MCs were not observed in all organs and age groups. These results showed age-related changes in the number of MCs in avian lymphoid tissues.