Does it work better?
Does it cost more?
No, in fact, genetic soft hackle probably costs a lot less if you consider what a grouse or partridge skin in good shape is gonna cost you and then consider how many feathers on them are not all that useful.
What is it? the hens from from dry fly operations in most cases. sometimes it's also the trim from roosters or hens from from streamer hackle lines.
Where do I get it? your local fly shop, online, or, in the case of collins http://www.collinshacklefarm.com and clearwater http://www.clearwaterhackle.com direct.
Why do I like it so much?
Well, I feel softhackles are under utilized, most shops have few if any patterns available so that means even if I wanted to buy them I have few options. Because of this I need to tie them for myself and in the past used partridge, pheasant, guinea and a few others but they are all a pain to work with. mostly because the quills are hard to work with for a few reasons and often the feathers are so short they are impossible to work with for smaller flies. On the other hand hen hackle from genetic lines tend to be consistent quality, a much finer and stronger stem, available in many colors, more pliable stem and a much more broad size range of feathers that look the same throughout.
My favorite are probably the the JV hens from Clearwater Hackle. The Collins, Whiting and Metz options are great too. With Whiting there are a bunch of hen options from different lines. I really like the brahma hens that Whiting does if I am looking for a speckled look.
As with rooster hackle you get a great range of size on necks and with saddles you have only a few.......
If you are so inclined to get the whiting or collins products go to http://rangeleyflyshop.com if you don't see what you're after give them a call, there's a ton of stuff not on the website yet. they are truly one of the best shops out there.
here are some pictures of various hen products. A Metz speckled hen saddle and two jv hens from Conranch which is now called Clearwater Hackle