Rinse chickpeas and discard any grit or debris. Soak overnight in water to cover to reduce cooking time (depending on age of beans, this can shorten the time by an hour). If you do, drain chickpeas before proceeding. Put in a large pot with bay leaves and thyme and add enough water to cover by 1 in.
Bring to a boil over high heat, covered, and let boil 5 minutes, partially covered. Reduce heat to low, cover fully, and simmer until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, adding more hot water as needed to keep chickpeas covered by about 1 in. When tender, stir in salt. If not serving right away, let cool in cooking liquid (you'll need some of it for Saffron Tomato Chickpeas or Sumac Hummus).