Place all of the chicken stock ingredients (whole chicken through thyme) in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil the reduce heat to a simmer.
Remove lid and let the stock simmer on low until the chicken falls off the bones - about one hour.
Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly with more salt, pepper or herbs to taste.
Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate stock overnight so that you can easily scape off the fat from the chilled soup in the morning. In the morning, scrape off fat layer from the top while soup is still cold.
Reheat stock over medium heat until warmed through. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
To strain, place a large mesh colander over another large stockpot and strain stock.
Prepare Matzo Balls:
Prepare according to package instructions. The key to fluffy, perfect balls is to cook them in a wide, deep soup pan so that the balls have space to expand. It doesn't need to be as deep as it needs to be wide.
Ladle hot chicken broth into a bowl and add one or two matzo balls. Sprinkle with chives to serve.
To save time, you can use a high quality canned chicken stock instead of making your own.My aunt discards the chicken from the stock-making process because she feels it's quite flavorless and cooked through at that point but you're welcome to reserve the meat and add to the soup later.For gluten free, look for the Gluten Free Matzo Ball Mix.