Use of whole wheat, along with compounded feeds, for poultry feeding is a common practice in many parts of the world. However, studies investigating the use of other grains are limited. In the present study, the influence of including whole maize, with differing hardness, in broiler diets on the performance, nutrient utilisation and digestive tract development was examined. The experimental design was a 3 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments, evaluating maize hardness (hard, semi-hard or soft) with diets based on ground maize or 115 g/kg whole maize replacing ground maize. The three maize cultivars were ground in a hammer mill to pass through a 4 mm sieve and six diets were developed based on one of the three cultivars. Following mixing, all diets were cold pelleted through a 3 mm die. Each of the six diets was fed to six replicate cages (eight birds per cage) from day 1 to 21 post-hatch. Maize hardness and whole maize inclusion had no effect (P>0.05) on weight gain. Maize hardness influenced (P<0.05) feed intake and feed per gain, while these two parameters were unaffected (P>0.05) by the inclusion of whole maize. The apparent metabolisable energy (AME) was unaffected (P>0.05) by maize hardness and whole maize inclusion. Maize hardness increased the ileal digestibility of nitrogen (P<0.05) and starch (P=0.06). The relative weight of the gizzard was greater (P<0.05) in birds fed hard and semi-hard maize compared to soft maize, and was greater (P<0.05) when whole maize was included. These results indicated that 115 g/kg of ground maize can be replaced by whole maize in broiler starter diets with no adverse effects on growth performance and thus can reduce the cost of feed manufacture.