Albumen was removed from broiler eggs before the start of incubation to induce prenatal protein under-nutrition in chicken embryos. With this method, the direct effect of protein deficiency was investigated, differing from mammalian models manipulating the maternal diet where indirect, hormonal effects can interfere. Based on the estimated albumen/egg weight ratio, 10 % of albumen was removed with an 18G needle, after making a hole at the sharp end of the egg with another 18G needle. Eggs were taped thereafter. The sham group underwent the same procedure, except that no albumen was removed. Control eggs did not receive any treatment. The removal of albumen decreased both embryonic and post-hatch body weight up to day 7 compared with the control group. On embryonic day 18, embryos from the albumen-deprived group had higher plasma uric acid levels compared with the sham (P= 0·016) and control (P= 0·009) groups. Moreover, a lower plasma amino acid concentration was observed at hatch compared with the sham (P= 0·038) and control (P= 0·152) groups. These findings indicate an altered protein metabolism. At hatch, a higher mRNA expression of muscle ring finger-1 (MuRF1), a gene related to proteolysis, was observed in albumen-deprived chicks compared with the control and sham chicks, together with an up-regulated expression of atrogin-1 (another atrogene) at this time point in the male protein-deficient chicks. These findings suggest that muscle proteolysis is transiently increased by the removal of albumen before the start of incubation. No evidence was found for altered protein synthesis capacity and translational efficiency in albumen-deprived chicks.