as an ex professional chef,can I weigh in ??
In the trade, we used to get whole, gutted chickens. After we had removed the breasts and thighs, and some times, the wings also, we would end up with a couple of 100 carcasses, which would go into a big stock pot, bones, bits of meat, skin, fat, even the occasional feather !
To that you would add carrot, leek, celery, onion and herbs, rosemary, thyme, parsley stalks & bay leaf, whole black peppercorns, but NO SALT. Cover with cold water and bring to a rapid boil. As the water heats up, it liquefies the fat, which rises to the top, along with other 'crap' that has to be skimmed off and thrown out. If you don't do this, your stock will taste horrible, and by extension, your soup will too.
Once your stock has come to a boil, turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, and let it alone for at least 4 hours, but 6 is better.
PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THIS IS INDUSTRIAL QUANTITIES. I WOULD SUGGEST 90 MINUTES FOR DOMESTIC.
Continue to skim off any scum that comes to the top, and add cold clean water to keep the level of liquid above the bones.
When you come to sieve the stock, DON'T STIR IT, you'll make it cloudy, and you don't want that. Ladle it out, through a muslin lined sieve, or chinois, into a clean pan. What you are looking for is a light amber colour, with no bits in it. Rapidly boil this down to about 2/3 d's its volume. This concentrates the flavour, and helps to thicken the soup a little. Once reduced, taste, and adjust for seasoning. NOW YOU CAN ADD SALT, if needed.
Now then, there are several ways of doing 'phase 2', which is prepping your meat & veg for the soup. I shall instruct you for the easier, and quicker way, because I'm sure you're hungry! Dice the meat up into what-ever sized pieces you think fit, but really no bigger than an inch (2.5 cm), and peel and dice all the veg that you want in the soup. Pour some of your stock, about 2 pints is enough, into a small boiling pan, and place the chicken meat in it. Add the diced carrots next (If you're using them), and let it simmer for 10 minutes. DON'T FORGET TO SKIM. Add the rest of the veg, and heat until all the veg are cooked. Obviously, your chicken and carrots have to be roughly the same size, or your timings will be out. Strain the meat and veg from the stock, and set aside, keeping it warm.
Now comes 'phase 3'. Assess how much soup you are going to serve, because you are going to thicken-ever so slightly-that amount of soup. Use cornflour (corn starch) about 1 heaped tablespoon is right. Mix with a small amount of cold water, enough to make it runny, and this is important...NO LUMPS !!!.....if you have lumps, sieve it. In fact,sieve it anyway, last thing you want is lumpy soup. Switch off the stock, and gradually pour in the cornflour...STIRRING ALL THE TIME....DO NOT BOIL...
portion out the soup, and garnish with the diced meat and veg. IF you have thickened the soup too much, you can let it down a little with the meat cooking liquor.
The stock you have left over can be cooled and fridged, as can the left over meat and veg.
If you made the stock correctly, it will solidify over night, any impurities rising to the top, which you'll be able to remove and throw away. That stock is now, basically, an un-refined consomme, a good base for many other dishes, if you don't fancy making anymore soup.
This is a recipe for basic chicken soup, you can take it much further: consomme; broth; veloute; cream; enriched or chowder.
I'll be round later, to help with the washing-up.
I've just read through some of the previous suggestions.As for cracking the chicken bones...NOT NECESSARY..The bones are small, porous and pliable enough, that 90 mins is waaayy long enough to get any gelatin, and flavour out of them