Vagal neural crest cells (VNCCs) arise in the hindbrain, and at (avian) embryonic day (E) 1.5 commence migration through paraxial tissues to reach the foregut as chains of cells 1-2 days later. They then colonise the rest of the gut in a rostrocaudal wave. The chains of migrating cells later resolve into the ganglia of the enteric nervous system. In organ culture, E4.5 VNCCs resident in the gut (termed enteric or ENCC) which have previously encountered vagal paraxial tissues, rapidly colonised aneural gut tissue in large numbers as chains of cells. Within the same timeframe, E1.5 VNCCs not previously exposed to paraxial tissues provided very few cells that entered the gut mesenchyme, and these never formed chains, despite their ability to migrate in paraxial tissue and in conventional cell culture. Exposing VNCCs in vitro to paraxial tissue normally encountered en route to the foregut conferred enteric migratory ability. VNCC after passage through paraxial tissue developed elements of retinoic acid signalling such as Retinoic Acid Binding Protein 1 expression. The paraxial tissue's ability to promote gut colonisation was reproduced by the addition of retinoic acid, or the synthetic retinoid Am80, to VNCCs (but not to trunk NCCs) in organ culture. The retinoic acid receptor antagonist CD 2665 strongly reduced enteric colonisation by E1.5 VNCC and E4.5 ENCCs, at a concentration suggesting RARα signalling. By FACS analysis, retinoic acid application to vagal neural tube and NCCs in vitro upregulated Ret; a Glial-derived-neurotrophic-factor receptor expressed by ENCCs which is necessary for normal enteric colonisation. This shows that early VNCC, although migratory, are incapable of migrating in appropriate chains in gut mesenchyme, but can be primed for this by retinoic acid. This is the first instance of the characteristic form of NCC migration, chain migration, being attributed to the application of a morphogen.