Agreed, @gjensen There is more and more research about how to increase the health of industrial poultry, and I think the current trend to look into whole grains as a way to boost gut health is interesting.
We just reviewed our custom feed with our mill ... they are now offering a feed with loose whole grains and a nutrient-dense pellet (their pellets are quite small, a size chickens find attractive), and I specifically asked if something like that might be healthier for our birds. The nutritionist said our current feed system is still healthier than their new "boutique" feed with the loose grains.
Our system is a custom pellet, with whole wheat as scratch, all the seasonal forage they care to go after, extra oyster shell on the side, grit available in a hopper and on the ground. The pellet gives birds a better chance of getting all the nutrition they need, and they get plenty of other stuff to keep their gizzards healthy.
From day one, broody hens are digging up sand for the chicks to get into their gizzards ... it's always the chicks' first meal.
Leslie, we are on the same page as this. When they have this, and some fresh, nutritional, and digestible greens all year . . . . The birds glow and reflect excellent condition. I like a good quality ration as their staple. Then throw them some whole grains, and make sure they have some greens. There is something to be said for food that is alive.