Broiler eggs were either incubated at 37.8°C during the whole incubation period (control), or at higher (38.8°C, group H) and lower temperatures (36.8°C, group L) from embryonic day (ED) 7 up to ED 10 (ED 7 to 10) or from ED 10 up to ED 13 (ED 10 to 13). Before and after this temperature treatment the eggs were incubated at 37.8°C. The day-old chicks were weighted, sexed and fed up to day 35. On days 1 and 35 samples were taken from the breast and leg muscles for analyzing of the mitochondrial respiratory activity (MRA) and from the breast muscles for analysis of the cross-sectional areas (CSA) and the glycogen phosphorylase (GP), phosphofructokinase (PFK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), citrate synthase (CS) and cytochrome oxidase (COX) activities. Statistical analysis showed that treatment (control, group H, group L), sex and their interaction, but not the treatment period (ED 7 to 10; ED 10 to 13), significantly influenced the results. Group H chicks had lower (P⩽0.05) body and heart weights but higher (P⩽0.05) liver weights, CSA values, leg MRA as well as PFK, LDH, CS, GP and COX activities compared with the group L chicks. The results of the control chicks differ (P⩽0.05) from those of the group H (body, heart weight, COX), the group L chicks (liver weight, PFK, LDH, CS, GP) or the birds of both other groups (CSA). The group H broiler had higher (P⩽0.05) body and leg weights as well as LDH, CS, COX and GP activities than the group L broilers. The BWs and the LDH and GP results of the control broiler differ (P⩽0.05) from those of both other groups or from the results of the group H (CS) and group L broiler (COX). Female broilers had lower (P⩽0.05) body, breast and leg weights, but higher (P⩽0.05) CSA, LDH, CS and GP activities than the male animals. Analysis of treatment×sex interaction showed that group H hens had higher (P⩽0.05) body and breast weights, LDH and GP activities compared with the group L hens, whereas in the male broiler no effect of the interaction could be found, except for the lower (P⩽0.05) CSA values in the group H than group L cocks. The treatment effects are probably due to altered embryonic activity and related molecular mechanisms. The sex-related differences in the broiler indicate that these alterations already occur in the embryos and chicks, but become significant with the sexual dimorphism after hatch.