Rinse chicken with cold water inside and out, and be sure to remove any "innards". (I discard the innards, but if you like them, save them for another use.).
Place whole chicken in large pot. Add water to cover the bird plus an inch.
Add bay leaves.
Bring to a boil, skim off the "foamy stuff" with a large spoon, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour and 30 minutes.
You may need to CAREFULLY turn your chicken over halfway through if it wants to stick up a bit.
CAREFULLY remove chicken from pot onto a platter, cover loosely with foil til cool enough to handle. *Remember there will be very hot water inside the cavity of the chicken. So please do this carefully, dumping that out into the pot as you remove it, so you don't burn yourself! *Also give the pot a stir. The chicken will be VERY tender when done, and a wing or leg may fall to the bottom. Be sure to get that!
Remove 5 cups stock from pot into heat-proof pitcher or pan. Save rest of chicken stock for another use.
Pour the 5 cups stock back into the pot.
While chicken is cooling, add rest of ingredients EXCEPT noodles.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a nice simmer and cook veggies about 4-5 minutes.
Now add the noodles. Stir.
Return to a boil to get it going again, then reduce to a nice simmer and continue to simmer til noodles are just about tender. About another 4-5 minutes.
While veggies and noodles are simmering away, remove meat from chicken and add as you go. (Don't add the skin or fat, of course, just the meat.).
Now just continue to simmer, another 2-3 minutes til noodles are tender. Take one out and try it is the only way to know! :).
*Also, don't stir this very much! You'll just break up the noodles.
*If using 4 chicken breasts instead, bring chicken breasts to a boil in pot, reduce to simmer, and simmer only 20 minutes.
Serve with saltine crackers if desired.
Makes about 3-4 quarts. But don't worry. Sounds like a lot, but the 2 of us go through this easily within only 3 days!
*Note: I use "Superior Touch Better Than Boullion Chicken Base". And it is really good!But any good quality chicken base will work well. *It comes in a jar next to the boullion. ;).
And one last thing (I promise!), if you need to add more of the broth that you stewed the chicken in, (if your chicken is large, or you added too many noodles, etc.) just nuke 1-2 cups broth with 1-2 teaspoons of the boullion/chicken base til dissolved, then add to pot. Simmer just a few minutes longer. HTH! :D.