High glucose levels induced by maternal diabetes could lead to defects in neural crest development during embryogenesis, but the cellular mechanism is still not understood. In this study, we observed a defect in chick cranial skeleton, especially parietal bone development in the presence of high glucose levels, which is derived from cranial neural crest cells (CNCC). In early chick embryo, we found that inducing high glucose levels could inhibit the development of CNCC, however, cell proliferation was not significantly involved. Nevertheless, apoptotic CNCC increased in the presence of high levels of glucose. In addition, the expression of apoptosis and autophagy relevant genes were elevated by high glucose treatment. Next, the application of beads soaked in either an autophagy stimulator (Tunicamycin) or inhibitor (Hydroxychloroquine) functionally proved that autophagy was involved in regulating the production of CNCC in the presence of high glucose levels. Our observations suggest that the ERK pathway, rather than the mTOR pathway, most likely participates in mediating the autophagy induced by high glucose. Taken together, our observations indicated that exposure to high levels of glucose could inhibit the survival of CNCC by affecting cell apoptosis, which might result from the dysregulation of the autophagic process.