The primary purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which the effects of dietary supplementation of the female chicken with selenium (Se) continue into the next generation. An additional aim is to compare the relative effectiveness of pre-hatch (from the hen's diet) with that of post-hatch (from the progeny's diet) supplementation with Se on the Se status of the chick during the first 4 weeks of post-hatch life. Hens were maintained on control or Se-supplemented diets, respectively containing 0.027 and 0.419 mu g Se/g of feed. The high-Se diet elevated the Se content of the hens' eggs by 7.1-fold. At hatch, the concentrations of Se in the liver, breast muscle and whole blood of the chicks originating from the high-Se parents were, respectively, 5.4-, 4.3- and 7.7-fold higher than the values in the chicks of the low-Se parents. When the offspring from the two parental groups were both maintained on the low-Se progeny diet, the tissue Se concentrations in chicks originating from the high-Se hens remained significantly higher for 3-4 weeks after hatching, compared with the values in chicks from the low-Se hens. Similarly, tissue glutathione peroxidase activity remained significantly higher in chicks from the high-Se hens for 2-4 weeks post-hatch. Thus, the effects of maternal Se supplementation persist in the progeny for several weeks after hatching. However, when chicks hatching from low-Se eggs were placed on a high Se diet, their tissue Se concentrations at 7 days of age were markedly higher than the values in chicks from high-Se eggs placed on the low-Se diet. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.