Thanks, those are some interesting options! We use alfalfa pellets from Azure Standard in pig feed, so maybe I'll soak some and see if the flock likes it.@WhiteTreeOfGondor lots of comments above - basically, pellets are pretty easy, and foraging in warmer climates (like South Carolina) can work out ok most of the year. But, they will need a VARIETY of foods accessible to them, and that may not be the case unless you plan for that. If you have land, and learn about year round gardening (if possible in your microclimate), you could very well provide them with a nutritious diet. But, what some people find is they supplement free range with pellets in the evening before roosting. Some people do not free range due to predators.
Feeding meal worms as protein: BAD idea as meal worms are actually very fatty. Too much fat and your birds can end up dying from fatty liver disease. So, using meal worms as part of their diet can be ok, when used sparingly.
Other sources of protein: nature's bugs, alfalfa grass (if dried form, get pellets and rehydrate, and make sure they have access to grit!) as alfalfa bought in pellets or cubes have a 16% minimum protein. DRY cat food, but watch the sodium, too much is quite bad for birds...grind it or hydrate it and don't use exclusively. Canned meats, but again, watch the sodium content. You roast a chicken/turkey, etc and give them the leftover carcass to pick over. Fish food, yup dried fish food but careful with the sodium. Catfish pellets - apparently high in protein. Keep in mind, many of the feeds I mention are formulated for healthy fish or cats or catfish...so some nutrients are likely not in ideal ratios. If you are able to provide your chickens with good forage, then supplementing with some of these can work out ok.
My spouse grew up in SC, and is pretty sure their chickens did not have a closed coop - but they did have shelter. And no recollection of having feed pellets...but, kids don't remember everything. Basically, the chickens foraged whatever and got food leftovers.