Abstract Feed composition has the potential to influence the activities of bacteria that colonize the digestive tract of broiler chickens with important consequences for animal health, well being, and food safety. In this study, the gut microbiota of two groups of broiler chickens raised in immediate vicinity but fed either a standard corn/soybean meal ration (corn–soy, CS) or a ration high in wheat middlings (high wheat, HW) was characterized. The findings revealed that this small variation in feed composition did not influence the distribution of microbial species present in the microbial community throughout the digestive tract. However, diet variation markedly influenced the Lactobacillus strain composition in the crop. Most striking, the dominant type in birds on the CS diet ( Lactobacillus agilis type R5), which comprised 25% of the isolates, was not detected in birds fed the HW diet. The latter birds harbored a different strain of L. agilis (type R1) in a significantly higher ratio than birds on the CS diet. Several other strains were also specific to the particular diet. In conclusion, this study showed that a small variation in the composition of chicken feed that does not result in detectable differences in species composition can still have an impact on which microbial strains become dominant in the digestive tract. This finding has relevance in the application of probiotics and other direct-fed microbials in poultry husbandry.