Inulin and wheat bran were added to the starter diets of broiler chickens to investigate the potential of these ingredients to improve the host's health and growth performance, as well as the underlying mechanisms of their effects. A total of 960 1-day-old chicks were assigned to 4 treatments: control (CON), 2% inulin (IN), 10% wheat bran (WB), and 10% wheat bran +2% inulin (WB+IN). On day 11, 6 chicks per treatment were euthanized. A general linear model procedure with Tukey's multiple range test was performed to compare a series of parameters between treatments. The WB-containing treatments improved BW on day 7, day 11, day 35, and BW gain until day 11 (P < 0.05), but only the WB+IN treatment showed a lower feed conversion ratio than the CON treatment (P = 0.011). Furthermore, the WB+IN treatment showed the highest villus height in the jejunum and ileum (P < 0.05), and the highest jejunal ratio villus height/crypt depth (P = 0.035). The concentration of acetate in the ceca was higher in the CON treatment compared to the IN treatment (P = 0.040). The IN treatment increased the concentration (P = 0.003) and ratio (P = 0.004) of iso-butyrate compared to the WB+IN and the CON treatments (P < 0.05). A clustering result exhibited similar intestinal microbiota profiles in the chicks receiving the IN and the WB+IN diets (P > 0.05), but these profiles were different from those found in chicks receiving the WB and the CON diets (P < 0.05). In conclusion, wheat bran and the combination of wheat bran and inulin ameliorated the growth performance and gut morphology of the starter chicks, which resulted in a higher BW until day 35. Inulin, on the other hand, had a greater ability to influence the microbiota profile. The beneficial results found in relation to BW and gut morphology during the starter period suggested a synergistic effect of inulin and wheat bran.