Speaking to a non-poultry group today reminded me that the public needs basic information about chickens. Defining the difference between breeds and varieties is important.
A breed is defined by its body conformation, comb and feather quality. A variety is a color, comb, muff, tuft, or feather variation within a breed. Breeds breed true, that is, their offspring are reliably similar to them at least 50 percent of the time. Breeding true is a requirement for being recognized by the American Poultry Association and being included in the Standard of Perfection.
These chickens, photgraphed by Corallina Breuer, are both Silkie roosters. That is their breed. One is the white variety and the other is a color variety called partridge. Partridge coloration includes rich red on the head and lustrous, greenish black feathers on the hackle and neck with narrow touches of brilliant red.
Other differences frequently found are Rose Comb and Single Comb varieties, recognized in Dorkings, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and other breeds.
Comb variations are often unacceptable in exhibition birds, so make sure you check the Standard for what is required of your breed.